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18 March 2014

Dental X-rays and Digital X-rays – CT scans and out CT scanner

Tooth decay and infection cannot be seen by the naked eye especially on its early stages. This is the reason why imaging technologies such as X-rays or CT scans are important diagnostic tools for dentists in arresting developing dental problems before it gets worst. This can easily translate to time and money savings as the patient receives interventions that are cheaper and easier to do when compared to full-blown procedures like root canal, extraction, or placement of dentures or implants. There are a lot of things that can happen to the teeth. Bone infection, gum disease, abscess, tumour, and decay between teeth are only some few examples of dental problems. All of these are very hard to spot without using imaging devices. Without dental X-rays, dentists are practically blind as to what is really happening in the mouth of their patients.


X-rays are recommended every 6 to 24 months depending on the person. Age, current dental health condition, and history of tooth decay can all help the dentist decide how often one should have an X-ray. X-rays can see through the spaces between teeth and can also see under tooth fillings. Infections developing at the root of the teeth can therefore be treated immediately. Hidden teeth problems are eradicated in one clean sweep. It is common practice for dentists to recommend X-rays to new patients as this is part of the preliminary assessment of one’s dental status. X-rays can also help dentists provide for preventive dental care as they can see where and when the second tooth would come out in the case of young children. In adults X-rays are also very handy for more accurate interventions as the wisdom tooth comes through.

Are X-rays safe?

Modern X-ray machines emit minimal radiation that natural sources such as the soil can even have higher concentration of radiation emission. This makes X-rays very safe. There are also other precautions that dentists can use to make sure that the other parts of your body are protected as the X-ray beam is directed to your mouth. However it is very important for women to tell their dentists that they are pregnant when they come and visit for a routine dental appointment. Dental X-rays are not recommended for pregnant women especially those in their 1<sup>st</sup> trimester. Dentists would even forego X-rays altogether unless it is really needed.

CT Scans

In cases where X-rays are not enough to confirm or rule out a diagnosis, a more detailed imaging is done through a computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans can detect not only bone tissue but also soft tissue and even blood vessels around the teeth. This can provide for a more detailed look into the health of the teeth of a patient. Cone-beam computer tomography uses cone beams instead of a fan-shape beam providing for a safer scan (less radiation compared to medical CT scans) while rendering a three dimensional picture of the mouth. This kind of diagnostic imaging is very useful for inserting dental implants in the jaw as placement decisions can be better made with the multi dimensional image.

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