The X-rays (radiographs) are normally performed yearly unless there is a problem with the patient’s oral health. A lead bib is placed over the patient’s chest, abdomen and pelvic area, to prevent any radiation exposure to their vital organs. Women that are pregnant or believe they may be pregnant should avoid all types of X-rays, as it is considered not safe for developing fetuses.
Types of X-Rays
There are many types of dental X-rays which show different views of the mouth. The most common are intraoral X-rays:
This involves biting down on a wing shaped device that holds the film in place. Each X-ray will show the upper and lower molars and bicuspids. It allows the dentist to see how the teeth line up. However it is most commonly used to check for cavities between back teeth.
This X-ray rotates around the patients head and is used to check all the teeth on one film. There is no need for a film to be put in the mouth, making this easier option to use on young children.
This method captures all of the patient’s teeth in one shot.
This is performed when the jaw is closed to view most of the upper or lower teeth. It is useful if the dentist does not have a panoramic X-ray.
This method is used to view one, or two teeth from crown to root and shows the bone that supports the tooth. It is used to find problems below the gum line, such as impacted teeth, cysts, tumors and abscesses.
Extraoral X-rays are used when there might be a problem in areas other than the teeth and gums, for example the jaw or skull. They are less detailed than intraoral X-rays and are not usually used for detecting cavities.
The hygienist will instruct the patient through each process of the X-ray and the patient will be advised to keep still while the X-ray is taken. The hygienist will step outside of the room for a moment while it is taken.
The full mouth X-ray also known as “the full set” consists of a series of X-rays taken to capture the entire mouth. It is used mainly to establish a baseline.
One of the easiest ways of taking X-rays if you are a new hygienist, is to use a paralleling kit that is colour coded. You can easily put the positioning bar, bite block and centering circle together for all views.