What Is an X-Ray and How Is It Used in Orthodontics?

Posted on January 2, 2020

An x-ray, also called a radiograph, is an imaging test regularly utilized in medical and dental fields. Images are made when a light emission goes through the body and hits a sensor, or piece of film on the opposite side. The shadow that is casted on the film enables your doctor to see objects covered up by the skin and bone. Orthodontists are able to decipher the difference between light and dark patterns that show up on the x-ray. This helps them distinguish normal tissue from abnormalities.

Two main types of dental x-rays used by an Orthodontist

Intraoral x-rays

Intraoral x-rays are the most widely recognized x-ray taken by dental specialist. Bitewings and periodicals are two types of intraoral x-rays. In these images, a dental specialist gets a detailed image of a tooth and it’s roots, and overall how healthy it is. These x-rays are generally used to find cavities. Enamel and fillings are thick and seem white in shading on the radiograph. The bone around the teeth, the root canals, and any decay are less thick and along these lines seem darker.

Extraoral x-rays

An extraoral x-ray shows the structure of the tooth but not as detailed as in a bitewing or periapical. The main focus of this image is the jaw and skull. With an extraoral x-ray your Orthodontist is able to monitor your impacted teeth and overall jaw development. Here are some different types of extraoral x-rays:

  • PANORAMIC– Shows a two dimensional view of the entire jaw and its supporting structures in one image.
  • CEPHALOMETRIC– Shows the entire side of the head and allows teeth to be viewed in relation to the jaw
  • CT CONE BEAM- Creates 3D images of dental structures, soft tissue, nerves and bone.

Why Orthodontists needs x-rays

Bitewing x-rays taken at your Dentist’s office generally cannot be used by an Orthodontist since the main focus is on individual teeth. An Orthodontist needs x-rays that show the entire jawline and a detailed image of the roots of your teeth.

To look for pathology

Before beginning braces or Invisalign, your Orthodontist will take a panoramic x-ray to look for any pathology such as cavities, abscesses, tumors, oral cancer, cysts, or periodontal disease. At Cardinal Orthodontics in St. Louis, we take this very seriously. We believe every orthodontic patient needs proper x-rays taken before starting orthodontic treatment. This is why all imaging and records taken at our office are free of charge at your new patient appointment!

To put together an Orthodontic treatment plan

A panoramic x-ray is essential to diagnose orthodontic problems. Without them, an Orthodontist can not properly diagnose or prepare a treatment plan. Besides looking for pathology, orthodontists also look at the position and form of your teeth and jaw. Specifically, they are looking at the development of teeth (extra, missing, or impacted), as well as the bone structure of your jaw. Being able to see the roots of the teeth is also very important when putting together an orthodontic treatment plan. The positioning and length of roots can determine the length of time one might be in braces. 

To monitor treatment progress

X-rays help your Orthodontist monitor how well your treatment is progressing. For example, the roots of your teeth need to be aligned properly to ensure the best bone support. Although rare, in some cases, orthodontics can cause the roots of teeth to shorten. An x ray would help determine how long treatment could continue without causing further damage.

Some people believe that x-rays are bad for you due to the radiation. However, keep in mind that x-rays have come a long way over the years. It’s actually possible you can get more radiation from being outside on a sunny day than you can from an x-ray at your Orthodontist’s office.

If you have any concerns about getting an x-ray don’t hesitate to share them with your dental professional. Especially if you are an expecting mother.

Categories: Oral Health, Orthodontic Treatment
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