Diagnostic x-rays during regular checkups provide us with information we cannot see during our visual examination of your mouth. Without this information, small problems are often missed until they become larger and cause pain or problems. At this point, the treatment is usually more invasive and expensive.
The most common type of dental x-ray is the bitewing x-ray. This is taken once a year to check between back teeth, where flossing cavities start. With bitewings, we can detect a flossing cavity 12 to 24 months before it becomes visible on a clinical exam. This is sometimes the difference in repairing the problem with a small filling instead of a root canal or crown.
A panoramic x-ray is taken in adolescents and teenagers. This is the type of x-ray that spins around the head when taken. We take this x-ray to confirm that all the permanent teeth are present, forming properly, and in good position to erupt naturally. It is also taken later to evaluate the position of wisdom teeth and decide if removal is indicated or not.
A full-mouth series of x-rays is recommended in adults every three to five years depending on certain factors. This series of x-rays is to evaluate the contacts of the front teeth that aren’t regularly x-rayed, as well as to evaluate the root structure, bone level, and other anatomy not seen on routine bitewings. Many problems can be detected early with a full-mouth series of x-rays. Left unnoticed, these problems would cause serious damage to teeth and jaws.