Millions of Americans have dental X-rays every year. You probably had X-rays the last time you went to the dentist, but why exactly are X-rays so vital?
These radiographs are images of your teeth, bones, and jaw and dentists use them to identify common oral health problems. Here are five reasons why dental X-rays are an essential part of oral health care.
1. X-Rays Identify Cavities
Cavities are holes in your teeth caused by plaque from certain foods and drinks — think sugary snacks, fatty foods, and sodas. One of the most common areas for cavities is between the teeth, which can't be seen without an X-ray. Dentists use X-rays to clearly identify any cavities in your teeth before recommending the right treatment, which might include fillings or crowns.
2. X-Rays Can Spot Cysts and Tumors
Dental cysts are inflamed tissue with fluid or soft material inside. These form around your teeth and can become infected. Tumors, on the other hand, can infect the bone of your teeth. Both cysts and tumors are potentially dangerous, and X-rays are an effective identification and preventative measure. Dentists use X-rays to detect cysts and tumors early, then suggest the best removal methods. X-rays are also useful for spotting cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
3. Dentists Use X-Rays to Check Developing Teeth
By age 13, most children will have 28 permanent "adult" teeth. Sometimes, however, there are delays in tooth development. Dentists use X-rays to check developing teeth and find the cause of any delays. Dentists also use X-rays to identify teeth that are growing in crooked, indicating a need for orthodontic treatment. X-rays allow dentists see the entire structure of a patient's teeth, bones and jaw, providing them with deeper insights than a regular appointment. As a result, teeth development problems are recognized and treated faster, which benefits the patient.
4. X-Rays Detect Bruxism
Teeth grinding — also known as bruxism — is a medical condition that affects between 30 and 40 million Americans. Characterized by a grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw, bruxism often causes discomfort and, in some cases, severe pain. X-rays are useful for identifying patients with bruxism. Dentists use radiographs to look for damage to the bone and jaw. They can then recommend the best method to treat the bruxism, such as a mouthguard or other forms of treatment.
5. X-Rays Identify Wisdom Teeth
Third molars — also called wisdom teeth — usually grow in during your late teens or early twenties. They sometimes grow in crooked and require removal. In fact, dentists remove more than 10 million wisdom teeth every year in the United States alone. Dental X-rays are an effective way to get a clear image. The latest dental X-ray technology produces accurate, detailed X-ray images of wisdom teeth in the gums, which help dentists determine whether wisdom tooth removal is necessary and, if so, the best way to proceed.
Dentists use X-rays to identify common problems such as slow tooth development and cavities. They also use them to check for cysts, tumors, and other potentially dangerous health conditions. If you want to improve your oral health, ask your dentist about X-rays the next time you book an appointment.