Everyone can benefit from dental radiography throughout life to assess oral health. X-rays are also useful to orthodontists as they plan treatment with braces or clear aligners. What lies beneath the gums is very important to the overall success of orthodontic treatment. X-rays are the only way to see what is hidden out of sight, and they are an essential tool for treatment planning.
What is dental radiography?
Dental radiography, AKA x-rays, uses low levels of radiation to obtain images of the teeth, gums, and bones. Dental radiography allows your provider to check on your oral health and catch any problems that may be hiding.
What kind of x-rays will be taken?
For orthodontic treatment, we typically utilize two types of x-rays. The first is a panoramic x-ray, which looks like a big smile. Dr. Peterson needs to be able to assess the health and positioning of the teeth and their roots, and a panoramic x-ray is one of the best ways to see everything at once. Panoramic x-rays also reveal structures like impacted teeth and wisdom teeth.
The second x-ray is a cephalometric x-ray, which shows the entire skull. This lets us see the teeth in relation to the jaw and profile. Orthodontists study cephalometric x-rays carefully while treatment planning to help ensure proper teeth and jaw alignment. Cephalometric x-rays also help orthodontists evaluate whether any surgery or extractions will be necessary.
How dental x-rays are useful before, during, and after treatment
Dental x-rays are useful before treatment because they help Dr. Peterson craft the perfect treatment plan for your unique smile. He can use the x-rays to evaluate your oral health, tooth positioning, jaw growth, and more. During treatment, Dr. Peterson will typically take a progress x-ray to check and see if any bracket repositioning is needed and monitor the health of the roots of the teeth. One side effect that can happen with orthodontic treatment is root shortening. These progress x-rays allow Dr. Peterson to make sure that no adverse effects are occurring. And after treatment, he will take x-rays to serve as final records. Final x-rays are also useful for assessing wisdom teeth to see if they require extraction.
Safety of dental x-rays
Are dental x-rays safe? Yes! Modern digital x-ray machines utilize very low levels of radiation. You actually receive about the same exposure while taking a short airplane flight. Rest assured that we do take proper safety precautions, such as:
- Having the patient wear a lead apron
- Setting exposure times based on size & age
- Keeping our x-ray machine in its own room separate from the rest of the clinic
Pregnant women are advised to skip or limit dental x-rays, but they are safe for everyone else.
All dental professionals are taught the ALARA principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) in regards to radiography. X-rays are only taken when it is in the patient’s best interest to do so. Dr. Peterson in San Tan Valley, AZ wants his patients to feel comfortable with all procedures including x-rays. If you ever have questions or concerns, we are happy to help!