When you attend your regular check-up with your dentist, they visually examine your teeth and gums to determine their health. But they will likely also suggest that you receive annual x-ray imaging. Visual exams can reveal a great deal about your oral health. But x-ray scans can illuminate any issues with the interior of your teeth and jaw that a dentist cannot see with the naked eye.
Dental x-rays are completely safe for patients. But you might feel more confident receiving these scans when you understand the important role they play in preventative dental care. Read on to learn about three ways that routine dental x-rays can benefit your overall oral health.
Diagnose Tooth Decay
A dentist can often spot a cavity, an early form of tooth decay, on a tooth during a visual exam. It can present with discoloration where bacteria have eaten a hole into the tooth. And the patient might notice some pain or sensitivity in that area.
But decay can form in parts of the tooth where a dentist cannot see as well, including between the teeth. For this reason, a dentist will suggest dental x-rays to reveal hidden tooth decay.
The decay will show up clearly on the scan so that a dentist can diagnose and then offer treatment for the issue. This allows a dentist to intervene and get rid of decay before it can worsen and leave serious lasting damage to the tooth.
Without prompt treatment of a cavity, decay can reach the vulnerable interior of the tooth, making it highly at risk of infection. Treat cavities as soon as you can with a dental filling.
Evaluate Tooth Pulp Health
Your dentist can see the pulp, the innermost layer of the tooth, with the naked eye. But they still need to get a look at it in order to ensure your smile is healthy. To do this, they can use x-ray imaging.
You might see some symptoms of tooth pulp problems, like discoloration or pain, that could indicate you have a dead tooth. But to confirm the diagnosis, a dentist will want to look at the function of the blood vessels and nerves there using an x-ray.
Non-vital tooth pulp does not necessarily warrant urgent dental treatment in all cases. But a dentist will want to monitor the condition since it could put the tooth in danger of infection.
Monitor Tooth Growth
The average dental patient will have all of their permanent teeth grown into place by the time they reach adolescence. But many people will also have wisdom teeth, an extra set of molars, that grow after this period. The jaw often does not have enough room to accommodate these teeth, so wisdom teeth might cause dental complications when they try to grow.
A dentist can see these teeth below the gumline in an x-ray. Then they can intervene and extract problematic teeth before they cause issues with your smile. They can also monitor your dental alignment this way so that you do not see malocclusions form.