Most of us will have had a dental x-ray either during a regular check-up or when we’re experiencing problems. We might not have thought much about the process but x-rays are a very important diagnostic tool for dentists, allowing them to see what is happening deep within the teeth and jaw. While some people are wary of x-rays, there’s really no reason to worry about them – they are a very low risk, simple and effective way of monitoring our dental health and flagging up otherwise invisible problems that may require treatment.
What Does Having an X-ray Involve?
X-rays may be recommended by your dentist anywhere from every 6 to every 24 months as part of your usual check-ups, depending upon your dental history. If you’re visiting the surgery because you’re experiencing discomfort, it’s likely that an x-ray will be taken to help your dentist determine exactly what is going on.
The process itself is easy, painless and takes very little time. Before the x-ray is taken an apron is placed over your body to protect against any radiation and a small piece of plastic is placed in your mouth. This is the x-ray film and you’ll be asked to bite down on it to keep it in place. The x-ray machine can then be moved into the correct position near your head and you’ll be asked to stay very still so that a clear image can be recorded. At this point the dentists and any assistants will very briefly step out of the room whilst the x-ray is taken but don’t be alarmed by this! Remember, they take a large number of x-rays every week so it’s just a precautionary measure to limit their exposure to radiation and is nothing to worry about. It’s certainly true that ‘radiation’ is a word with negative associations for most of us. However, dental x-rays are considered to be very safe – according to UK government statistics, the amount of radiation they expose you to is actually less than 100g of brazil nuts or a transatlantic flight! The risk is also lower than many other common types of x-ray, although (as with all x-rays) if you are pregnant it’s a good idea to mention it to your dentist as they may decide not to proceed under those circumstances.
Are All X-rays the Same?
There are a few different kinds of x-ray that can be taken depending upon what the dentist wants to have a look at. We’ll dispense with the fancy jargon but essentially the smaller x-rays take an image of a few teeth at a time and there are larger versions that can show each side of the jaw, face or even the entire mouth. Whatever type of x-ray you may have it will show the dentist what is happening not just in the teeth themselves but in all the supporting structures too.
What Can They Reveal?
- Decay and cavities within and between the teeth
- Changes in the bone of the jaw
- Infections, cysts and tumours
- Bite problems
- The development of children’s teeth
- The way in which wisdom teeth are coming through
- Whether teeth are touching and occluding one another
- Whether the jawbone is suitable for implants
- Dental injuries such as broken tooth roots
- The position of teeth when fitting braces
As you can see, there are a number of reasons why your dentist may need to take an x-ray but the benefits far outweigh the risks and it is not a procedure that should give you any cause for concern.
If you have any further questions regarding x-rays or any of our other dental procedures, please get in touch with us on 01239 820083.
From a slight niggle to a persistent ache most of us will have experienced dental pain at some time or another. When the pain is extreme, we don’t hesitate to get straight on the phone to the dentist but this sort of emergency often occurs because we haven’t addressed more minor problems soon enough. There are many reasons why our teeth, gums, mouth or jaw area may hurt so it’s useful to know what might cause pain and, more importantly, what could happen if we don’t take action.
Tooth decay – This is the most common cause of toothache and occurs when the enamel layer is broken down, exposing the sensitive dentine beneath. The pain can vary from a sharp pain to a dull ache. If caught early, preventative care or having a filling could stop more damage occurring but if left untreated the decay can go deeper into the tooth causing extreme discomfort and infection.
Broken or loose fillings – When fillings crack or fall out they expose sensitive areas and provide a route through which bacteria can get deeper into the tooth. So if you notice that there’s a problem with your filling pop in and see the dentist – it might not hurt initially but fail to get it repaired and you could be heading for a painful abscess in the future.
Cracked teeth – Whether it’s due to wear and tear or an injury, a cracked tooth could be behind sensitivity or pain. As with broken fillings, the break in the tooth gives bacteria the opportunity to move down through the layers and cause infection. If it gets to root canal it could eventually lead to the loss of the tooth so it’s important to see what the dentist can do by way of repair.
Abscesses – These are often the result of leaving the above dental problems untreated. An abscess is a nasty bacterial infection in the gums or root canal of the tooth, causing a build up of pus and, quite often, a lot of pain. An abscess won’t get better on its own. Your dentist will need to remove the source of the infection so always seek your dentist’s advice if you suspect this may be the cause of your discomfort. Left untreated, your face may swell and the infection can make you feel pretty unwell with symptoms such as a fever, chills or nausea.
New teeth – When new teeth break through (like your wisdom teeth, for example) the surrounding gums can become swollen and quite sore. Sometimes, wisdom teeth may not have enough room to come through or may only erupt partially which can cause problems so seek your dentist’s advice if you experience discomfort.
Gum disease –When plaque builds up on your teeth it can irritate the gums, causing them to bleed and become painful and swollen. It can also cause the gums to recede, exposing more sensitive parts of the tooth root. In its early stages gum disease can be treated but if left unchecked the gums will become more damaged which could cause the teeth to loosen and eventually fall out.
Ulcers – These painful sores can make eating and drinking quite uncomfortable. Mouth ulcers can often be cured using over the counter remedies but if you get them regularly or they last more than 3 weeks it’s probably a good idea to pay your dentist a quick visit.
Grinding your teeth – This tends to happen more when we’re asleep but can be done subconsciously when awake if we’re stressed or concentrating. It can result in jaw pain as well as worn down or sometimes broken teeth. Treatments include using a mouth guard, relaxation techniques or medication but your dentist can help determine which is best for you.
Abnormal bite – If the way your upper and lower jaw comes together is normal you should be able to grind your teeth together and bite down in all directions without feeling any discomfort. If there are problems with your bite you may experience pain or significant wear in certain teeth but there are ways in which your dentist can correct this problem.
So, if you start experiencing pain anywhere in your mouth, it’s time to book an appointment! Just give us a call on 01239 820083.
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