What Type Of Dental X-rays Will I Need And How Often?

Recently we had a new patient mention that they enjoyed our dental practice and the service they received, but felt like we took more x-rays and intraoral pictures then they had in the past. This got us thinking that may be other patients share this feeling, so we felt it was important to take some time to explain why we do what we do.

As trained dental professionals we know how essential x-rays and intraoral pictures are to making an educated diagnosis. Through x-rays we can see your bone, roots, in-between the teeth and also detect any possible abnormalities such as oral cancers or blocked arteries depending on the x-ray we take. In order to know what is going on in areas we can’t see with the human eye we need these images to best serve the needs of our patients.   

So what type of x-rays can you expect to receive at Dentistry by Design and how often? That depends on if you are a current or new patient. We follow the ADA recommendations for x-rays and as an existing patient at our Sturgeon Bay, Sister Bay or Algoma practice it is recommended to have the following.

Bitewings are taken yearly and are the small tabs that you bite on that holds the x-ray film in place.  These x-rays help us see between the teeth and catch possible issues in areas that may not be detected by a general oral exam.

FMX, otherwise known as a full mouth series, is also a type of x-ray you can expect to receive every 5 years depending on the patient.  An FMX consists of 18 different pictures of your teeth achieved by biting down on films that are placed inside your mouth similar to the bitewings.

Panorex (Pan), which is a Panoramic x-ray, is also done every 5 years depending on the patient.  This involves biting down on a straw-like appliance while a scanner rotates around your head taking one image.  Should you need to see us for a dental emergency it is our protocol to take another Pan of the affected area to identify the source of the problem, but this is case specific.

In some cases we will also take pictures of your teeth with our intraoral camera.  This is a tool that our dentist can maneuver inside your mouth to get different angled images of your teeth and gums. These images are displayed during an appointment on a monitor screen in either the exam room or consult room for our patients to see.  This comes in extra helpful when showing a crack in a tooth or separation between a filling and tooth.  It is also helpful to show before and after’s of restoration procedures like changing out a metal amalgam filling to composite resin filling (tooth colored).

For new patients x-rays can be transferred upon their request from a previous dentist to our office. If they are good quality and have been taken in the past 5 years, chances are we won’t need to take them again. However, if we feel they aren’t the quality we need we will take new ones to get a clear picture of the current state of your oral health.  For new patients that require updated imaging, they will receive an FMX and a Pan as part of our new patient special and going forward be under the recommendations listed above as a Dentistry by Design patient.

When talking about x-rays people understandably want to know how much radiation they will be subjected to.  To give you an idea, according to the American Dental Association, a FMX full mouth series is equivalent to a couple days of environmental radiation exposure. To reduce exposure even more we use a lead apron and sometimes a lead thyroid collar. A great resource on this can be found on the ADA website https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/x-rays .

We hope this article provides clarity on the use of x-rays at our Dentistry by Design practices. Remember not everyone’s needs are the same when it comes to your oral health so x-ray frequency, recall frequency, and the like, may differ.