X-rays, also known as radiographs, are an essential part of any dental care treatment plan. They are diagnostic, but they can also be preventative, by helping a dentist diagnose potential oral care issues in a patient’s mouth before they become a major problem. These X-rays capture images of the interior of your teeth and gums. Dental X-rays may seem complex, but they’re actually very common tools that are just as important as your teeth cleanings. These X-rays allow dentists to:
- Find cavities & tooth decay
- Impacted teeth
- Look at the tooth roots
- Check the health of the bony area around the tooth
- Determine if periodontal disease is an oral care issue
- See the status of developing teeth
- Otherwise, monitor good tooth health through prevention
What is an OPG? (OrthoPantomoGraphy dental X-Ray)
An OPG is a panoramic or wide view x-ray of the lower face, which displays all the teeth of the upper and lower jaw on a single film. It demonstrates the number, position and growth of all the teeth including those that have not yet surfaced or erupted. It is different from the small close up x-rays dentists take of individual teeth. An OPG may also reveal problems with the jawbone and the joint which connects the jawbone to the head, called the Temporomandibular joint or TMJ. An OPG may be requested for the planning of orthodontic treatment, for assessment of wisdom teeth or for a general overview of the teeth and the bone which supports the teeth.
How Safe are Dental X-rays?
Exposure to all sources of radiation — including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays — can damage the body’s tissues and cells. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of X-rays is extremely small.
Advances in dentistry over the years have lead to the low radiation levels emitted by dental X-rays. Some of the improvements are new digital X-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to the small area being X-rayed. X-rays expose you to a radiation, which is what many people get in a routine exam, give about .005 millisieverts of radiation, according to the American College of Radiology. That’s about the same amount of radiation you get in a normal day from the sun and other sources.