Digital radiography (digital X-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental X-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of X-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged, helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems more easily. Digital X-rays reduce radiation 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays.
Dental X-rays are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without X-rays, problem areas can go undetected.
Dental X-rays may reveal:
Abscesses or cysts.
Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
Decay between the teeth.
Poor tooth and root positions.
Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Are dental X-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. Digital X-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays. Not only are digital X-rays better for the health and safety of the patient, they are faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental office. Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the X-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.
Even though digital X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation. These precautions include only taking those X-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.
Physicians have relied on computerized axial tomography scans (CAT) for many years. CAT scans are an X-ray procedure that uses many different X-ray images with the help of computers to generate cross-sectional or even 3D views of internal organs and structures within the body. A knee replacement surgery, for example, would never be performed without first examining 3D imaging.
More recently however, dentists have begun to rely on 3D imaging techniques and i-CAT® scans to provide them with a detailed view of the mouth and skull. The advantage that 3D imaging holds over regular dental x-rays is that bone structure, bone density, tissues, and nerves can be viewed clearly.
i-CAT® scans can be completed in less than half a minute. This means that far less radiation enters the body than if a regular set of bitewing X-rays were taken. The main use for i-CAT® scans is as an aid to plan dental implant treatment and other oral surgery.
Dental implants are the most sophisticated replacement for missing teeth, but have historically proven to be time-consuming to place. i-CAT® scans vastly reduce the time it takes to place implants. It is thought that in the near future implants will be placed in a single visit because of this unique type of imaging.
How are i-CAT® scans used?
i-CAT® scans are advantageous because they allow the dentist to magnify specific areas of the face. In addition, the dentist can easily view cross-sectional “slices” of the jaw, which makes planning treatment easier and faster.
In recent years, laser dentistry has superseded many traditional dentistry practices, making treatments more precise and less painful. This newer style of dentistry utilizes intense beams of light projected by a dental laser. Dental lasers can be used to perform a wide variety of treatments, including soft tissue shaping and removal.
The FDA deemed laser dentistry to be safe for public usage in 1990. Since then, many dentists have incorporated dental lasers into everyday procedures – reducing bleeding, anxiety and post-treatment recovery times. The beauty of dental lasers is that they damage far less of the surrounding tissue than traditional techniques – which means less discomfort and pain.
Here are some of the other benefits associated with laser dentistry:
Faster healing and tissue regeneration.
Preservation of more of the natural tooth.
Reduced bleeding during and after treatment.
Reduced need for anesthesia.
Reduced need for stitches and sutures.
Reduced risk of bacterial infections after procedures.
How can laser dentistry help me?
Laser dentistry is incredibly versatile and plays an important role in a growing number of common dental procedures. Though laser dentistry is most notably associated with cosmetic treatments, it is equally effective for preventative purposes.
Here are some of the ways that dental lasers can be used:
Tooth preparation – Prior to laser dentistry, a drill would be required to prepare the tooth for a filling. Lasers can now completely eliminate the need for drilling and anesthesia. Lasers also successfully kill oral bacteria around the surgical site.
Reshaping soft tissue – Dental lasers can dissolve soft tissue to expose more of the natural tooth (crown lengthening), reshape soft tissue to make “gummy smiles” more attractive, and remove uncomfortable soft tissue folds caused by denture wear.
Frenectomy – Lasers can improve speech and the feeding habits of babies, children and adults by untying the tongue.
Tumor removal – When benign tumors have formed in the soft tissue areas of the mouth, a dental laser can completely remove them without causing pain.
Whitening – Lasers can greatly expedite the tooth whitening process by increasing the activity of the particles in the peroxide bleaching solution.
Biopsy – Lasers are sometimes used to perform a biopsy on suspicious areas of soft tissue. This biopsy procedure can be performed instantly and with great precision.