Dentists mainly use 2 methods for taking dental X-rays namely Extraoral Radiographs and Intraoral Radiographs. A third method, Digital Radiographs, is a new method. The X-ray film is placed inside the mouth in Intraoral Radiograph methods and outside the mouth in Extraoral Radiograph methods. Intraoral Radiographs methods are Occlusal X-ray, Periapical X-ray, Bite-wing X-ray. Extraoral radiographs methods are Panoramic X-rays and Cephalometric Projections.

Intraoral Radiographs

Intraoral X-ray Methods are the most commonly used because they provide a lot of details. Dentists use the images from Intraoral X-ray Methods to look for cavities, investigate tooth roots, check for infections in the bony part of the tooth. The methods are also used to monitor developing teeth and tooth health. Different methods are appropriate for specific investigations.

Bite-wing X-rays

Bite-wing X-rays highlight the back teeth crowns. Dentists take a few Bite-wing X-rays on either side of the mouth. The images show lower and upper molars and the teeth preceding the molars. The method is named "bite-wings" since the patient bites a wing-shaped insert used to hold the film in position while taking the image. Dentists use these images to investigate decay between the back teeth.

Periapical X-rays

Periapical X-rays produce the image of only one tooth or two teeth at a time. The image looks similar to that taken by the bite-wing X-ray method. However, it shows the entire tooth, from root to crown. Depending on dental history and oral health the dentist may order a full-mouth radiographic survey, FMX. This involves imaging every tooth, from root to crown and its supporting structures. FMX is done using both periapical and bitewing radiographs.

Occlusal X-rays

Occlusal X-rays produce the largest images which focus on tooth placement and development. Each image shows nearly the entire arch of teeth of lower or upper jaw.

Extraoral Radiographs

Extraoral X-rays are processed with the film placed outside the mouth. They are "big picture" X-rays. They are aimed at imaging the skull or jaw even though they also show teeth. Dentists use Extraoral radiographs to monitor growth and development and check status of impacted teeth. The methods are also used to investigate the orientation of the teeth to the jaws and examine the facial bones. The images do not show much detail and are therefore not used for investigation flaws and cavities on individual teeth. Panoramic X-rays produce the image of the entire mouth from one X-ray which includes all teeth on lower and upper jaws. A special machine is used for the X-ray. The process is very safe but the machine looks intimidating. It uses less radiation than in intraoral X-rays. Cephalometric projections produce full images of one side of the head. They are used to check the orientation of teeth to the jaw and body profile. Cephalometric projections are used by orthodontists to decide on the best orthodontic treatment.

Digital Radiographs

Digital radiograph is a new X-ray technique. The X-ray film is not used. Instead a flat electronic sensor or pad is used. The image is produced in a computer where it may be viewed, printed and/or stored. The images produced at different times can easily be compared. Small changes can therefore be identified much earlier.

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