Why Does the Orthodontist Need to X-Ray?

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Orthodontics FAQ King George

One of the most frequently asked questions by our patients here at Beecroft Orthodontics before receiving their King George Orthodontic treatment is, “why does the orthodontist need to x-ray”?

The answer is actually quite simple. When it comes to creating an individualized orthodontic treatment plan, x-rays have proven to be one of the most valuable diagnostic tools available in the world today. Not only do they aid in identifying any concealed alignment or structural issues in the patient’s jaws and teeth, they also help determine possible tooth growth, direction and movement, which gives an insight into the connection between the tooth and its impinging structures. Without this powerful tool, it would be much more difficult, if not impossible, to catch certain diseases and damage that wouldn’t otherwise be visible to the naked eye.

Usually, these radiographs (x-rays) are taken both before and after treatment. Pre-treatment x-rays are taken for a more accurate assessment of what needs to be done prior to receiving treatment, and post-treatment x-rays are to see if the treatment created the desired results. While some think post-treatment x-rays are unnecessary, an orthodontist uses these x-rays to ensure bones are developing properly and that proper teeth alignment has occurred. This is done in large part to avoid any related dental issues that may arise as a result of the treatment plan.

Who Needs X-Rays?

There is no specific qualifier for this, and they are certainly not only for new patients. Certain factors, however, such as age and current oral health, along with the patient’s risk for disease and whether or not the patient presently shows any symptoms of oral disease, all contribute when determining if an x-ray is necessary. Your orthodontist will examine your teeth and then calculate all of these factors before deciding how to proceed with your personalized treatment plan.

Children sometimes require more x-rays than adults because their teeth and jaws are still forming, so changes occur more frequently. Children are also more inclined to develop tooth decay as a result of the changes that happen during these younger years, so x-rays are given as a precaution in hopes to prevent any future issues.

For new patients, x-rays are needed in order for the orthodontist to have initial knowledge regarding your current oral health and also to compare against any future issues. Established patients may receive further x-rays as a means to detect any new cavities, to determine gum health and also to evaluate the growth and development of their teeth.

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Which Type of X-Ray Do I need?

There are several different types of x-rays, but two of the most common include:

  • Panoramic (OPG) – this type of x-ray is used to determine the position of any teeth that have yet to break the surface (usually in small children), as well as to identify the bone's health surrounding the teeth, plus sinuses of the jaw joints, etc.
  • Cephalometric views – this type of x-ray helps when determining growth calculations (again, used commonly in children) and also to gauge any changes that the treatment might have caused.

In addition to the two types listed above, there are a couple other x-rays that are frequently used when creating more complicated treatment plans. They include:

  • Post treatment OPG’s and lateral cephalograms – these are used when conducting a patient's returning wisdom teeth assessment to conclude final outcome of the treatment.
  • TMJ radiographs – this type of x-ray is useful in evaluating 2-D structures of a patient’s temporomandibular joints. These x-rays offer profile views of the patient’s skull and soft tissues, thereby helping the orthodontist to understand the relationship between the patient’s teeth, the connection between the jaws and the skull, and also the correspondence between the soft tissues and the jaws and the teeth.
  • Cone-beam x-rays – used when a more thorough analysis of TMJ-related issues is needed.

As you can see, there are several types of x-rays, and because each one has its own role in identifying oral concerns, a patient can expect to have one or several types of x-rays taken during any single office visit. Three or more x-rays in one visit is not uncommon.

Photo credit: jfraser / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Are X-Rays Safe?

Another common question heard by orthodontists is “are x-rays safe to use”? In short, yes. While x-rays do expose patients to small, controlled amounts of radiation, there are extensive safety guidelines and procedures in place to ensure that maximum safety is achieved. Because the state authorities monitor the use of these machines so carefully, there is no reason to be hesitant about using these instruments. In addition to observation of the actual equipment, other precautions are in place for maximum safety potential. The rooms that house the equipment are closely watched, and the staff in charge of operating the equipment is taken through extensive training to ensure all safety procedures are carried out.

Typically, while receiving an x-ray, the patient will also wear a lead apron to limit the amount of exposure to the abdomen and a leaded thyroid collar prevents high amounts of exposure to the thyroid. The leaded apron and thyroid collar are especially used on women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and children. So as you can see, extra measures and guidelines ensure the staff and patients’ exposure time is “As Low As Reasonably Achievable,” otherwise known as the ALARA Principle.

Choosing the Right Orthodontist

Our King George Orthodontics experts understand your hesitations regarding x-rays and we are here to answer any inquiry and address any concern you may still have. We encourage you to visit our office so you can check out our state-of-the-art equipment for yourself. We will make it our goal to make your visit as smooth as possible. Give us a call and let us assist you in setting up the appropriate King George orthodontic treatment plan for you!

Beecroft Orthodontics - 10472 Georgetown Dr, Fredericksburg, VA22553 Phone: 540 898 2200

Why Does the Orthodontist Need to X-Ray?

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