Diagnostic Aids in Dentistry

In the first of this series of blogs we addressed the types of examinations. To aid the doctor in arriving at your diagnosis other aids may be used.

Radiographs (X-rays)

Radiographs are commonly taken in most dental offices. These include two general classes:

  1. Intraoral

Periapicals which are used to examine the root tips of the teeth and the surrounding bone. They are taken with the film or digital sensor placed in the mouth and will show 2 – 3 teeth at a time. To acquire images of all the teeth a full mouth series usually 12 or more films are taken. This gives a good view of all of the teeth, but does not show jaw structures beyond the teeth.

diagBitewing x-rays are included in the full mouth series and show the decay that has developed between the teeth. These cavities are usually not visible clinically in the mouth. They also give a good view of the bone levels between the teeth. These are taken in the mouth with the teeth together.

Occlusal x-rays are used in the mouth to get a view of the root tips of the teeth and the jaws. One half or all of the jaw may fit on a single view.

diag-12. Extraoral

Panoramic Radiographs are a form of extraoral x-ray. They take views of the entire jaw structures and the lower face by rotating the film around the outside of the head and neck.

They are useful as survey films, but lack the fine detail of the other films. When used areas of possible concern require further periapical or other films to supplement the information.

Cephalometric x-rays are used predominantly by orthodontists. They may have a machine in their offices.

Some of the other extraoral radiographs used include Cone beam computerized tomograms (CBCT) for 3 -D views of oral structures, computerized axial tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans and magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) are generally done in x-ray clinics of hospitals or dental radiologists.

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