For those outside of the medical and dental fields, it can be surprising at just how much technology goes into our health and hygiene, and how desperately we have come to rely on this technology. While many think of dental radiology as a technological achievement that merely dictates whether or not you might have a cavity or broken tooth, dental radiology also helps dentists to scan the overall bone density of the teeth themselves and spot problems that may not be visible to the naked eye.
In some instances, it’s this very procedure that has been able to identify the depletion of bone density near the center of the tooth, something wholly invisible to the naked eye or those using the explorer. In fact, this technology has become so important and intrinsic to the way in which dental examinations occur, that the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) suggests that dental X-Rays account for about 21% of all X-Rays, becoming the most widespread use of radiologic exams. Today, we wanted to look at two very different sides to dental radiology by focusing on different locations for different types of common dental X-Rays.
Intraoral Dental Radiology
Intraoral dental radiology refers to dental X-Rays that occur within the mouth. Intraoral dental radiology is broken up into a few different categories:
- Intraoral Apical Radiography
- Intraoral Occlusal View
- The Full Mouth Series
Intraoral dental radiology is created by putting the film or sensor within the mouth before taking the radiograph. The patient is protected by a lead apron or something similar in order to protect from the radiation, which is around 0.15 mSv, about the same as one would receive in a cross-country airplane flight. However, this radiation is concentrated to a small area and a very quick dose. Let’s look at how this radiation and the corresponding intraoral X-Rays are used to diagnose problems with teeth.
The Bitewing View
The Intraoral bitewing view is among the most common dental X-Ray procedures that occur nationwide. This view is used to evaluate the interproximal decay and bone loss of the posterior teeth. Bitewing X-Rays are often preferred by dentists, because they can accurately depict the bone levels more than other views of the mouth.
The Periapical View
The periapical view is taken from a distance of about 6-8 inches away from the patient’s face. This provides a full view of the entire tooth, including the crown, root and surrounding bone. This radiograph is useful in helping to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions including cavities, periodontal disease, abscesses and impacted teeth. It also helps to identify any changes in the bone structure such as fractures or cysts. The periapical view is also an important tool in orthodontic work, as it allows the dentist to check the progress of the teeth and make sure they are in the correct position. This radiograph can also be used to check for any changes in the root of the tooth due to trauma, infection or decay.
The Intraoral Occlusal View
The occlusal view is a type of X-Ray that allows dentists to identify and diagnose certain anatomical abnormalities. It can be taken from the bottom of the jaw under the chin or angled down from the nose. This X-Ray is unique in that it looks at the floor of the mouth, as well as the palate. The size of the X-Ray film used for this view is up to four times larger than what is typically used for intraoral views. By using a larger film, dentists are able to gain a more detailed image of the area being examined. This view is not included in the Full Mouth Series, but instead serves as a distinct X-Ray with its own purpose. The occlusal view helps dentists to detect any issues with the teeth, jaw, and soft tissues of the mouth, such as cysts, tumors, and growths. Additionally, this view can be beneficial in diagnosing certain types of malocclusions, or misalignments of the teeth.
The Full Mouth Series
The full mouth series is exactly what it sounds like. This is a complete set of intraoral dental radiographs that help the doctor give insight on all of the patients’ teeth as well as any tissue nearby the bone and the root. This series is a series of up to eightteen different images, all taken the same day, that include both bitewings and periapicals. Bitewing radiographs are used to evaluate the crowns, interproximal surfaces, and crown-root area of the teeth. Periapicals are used to evaluate the entire tooth, from the crown to the root, and to check for any abnormalities in the bone surrounding the teeth. The full mouth series is typically recommended for patients who are new to the practice, to check for any existing decay or damage, or who are getting a new dental restoration or implant.
Panoramic radiography is taken with the film and exposure right in front of the mouth, and looks at the whole mouth and all teeth all at once. This was introduced in order to quickly get a view and understanding of a patient’s oral health, but was put into practice by the US Army and used to expedite the soldier’s recruiting process. Unsurprisingly, when looking panoramic views, dentists can often see a quick assessment of the client’s oral health, but don’t offer a granular perception of bone loss or tooth decay on an individual level.
Occlusal radiographs are a type of dental X-ray that produces an image of the entire dentition and surrounding structures. They are used to detect decay, fractures, and problems with the jawbone or teeth. Occlusal radiographs can also be used to measure the height of the jawbone and the size of the teeth for treatment planning. They can also be used to detect impacted teeth and assess the overall development of the jawbone. In addition, occlusal radiographs can help diagnose gum disease, evaluate the bite, and detect cysts or tumors.
Cephalometric radiographs (also called cephalograms) are radiographs that are taken of the head and neck to assess the shape of the face, the position of the teeth, and the relationship of the teeth and jaws to one another. These radiographs are used by dentists and orthodontists to diagnose and plan treatment for orthodontic problems, such as overcrowding, spacing, misalignment, and jaw discrepancies. They can also be used to evaluate jaw growth and development, evaluate the effects of orthodontic treatment, and plan for orthognathic surgery.
Contact ACI Medical and Dental School Today
While we may only associate dental radiology with traditional intraoral bitewings, each of these views have a bespoke purpose, and help to further illuminate how technology and X-Rays continue to help enhance our oral health. For more about dental radiology, or to get started with your dental radiology certification, contact us today.