The Importance of X-Rays in Orthodontics

Posted on 11/25/2015 by Dr. Lovrovich
A dentist examining a patients dental x-ray.

If you or your child will be having orthodontic treatment, you may be wondering exactly why your orthodontist needs to take X-rays. After all, shouldn’t your dentist be able to see all of your teeth and their potential problems via a simple dental exam?

When it comes to developing an effective orthodontic treatment plan, X-rays are one of the best diagnostic tools available. An X-ray is a great resource for identifying alignments or problems that are concealed, and they also help your orthodontist to make predictions about how the teeth will grow, including which direction. Without this tool, developing an efficient treatment option would be extremely difficult, and your orthodontist may miss certain damage and diseases that are not visible to the naked eye.

X-rays are typically taken both before and after treatment in order to determine how the teeth have moved and whether problems have been corrected. Pre-treatment images can give your orthodontist an accurate assessment of exactly what needs to be corrected with the treatment, and post-treatment images can be used to see if braces or other orthodontic treatment options have led to the intended results. While some patients may argue that X-rays after treatment aren’t necessary, these images actually ensure that the bones are developing properly, and they can be crucial in avoiding future dental related issues.

Is an X-Ray Safe?

Orthodontists understand that some patients are concerned about the safety of X-ray imaging, and while you or your child will be exposed to some radiation when images are being captured, the radiation levels that you will experience are small and controlled. X-ray imaging machines are required to comply with safety guidelines, and hygienists and other orthodontic staff members are well trained in procedures that will ensure maximum safety. Since these systems are monitored so thoroughly, patients should feel comfortable having their teeth X-rayed in an orthodontic office.

What Types of Dental X-Rays Will You Need during Orthodontic Treatment?

Your orthodontist will determine the exact number of X-rays that you’ll need throughout the course of your treatment, and while there are several available, there are a few that are more common than others:

  • Panoramic X-Rays: This view will be used to determine the positioning of teeth that have yet to erupt through the gums. It can also identify the health of the bone that is surrounding the teeth.
  • Cephalometric X-Rays: This view will be useful when determining how much the teeth will grow, and it can also be used after orthodontic treatment in order to determine what changes the methods have caused.
  • TMJ Radiographs: If orthodontic work is being sought because of issues with the TMJ, these images can be used to evaluate the structures of the temporomandibular joints. The images offer profile views of the soft tissues and skull, allowing the orthodontist to better understand the relationship between the jaw connection and skull.

How Many X-Rays Will I Have Taken?

Most patients should expect to have 3-5 radiographs taken throughout their orthodontic treatment, possibly over the course of 3-4 years. Since most radiograph images are digital, they can be forwarded to your primary dentist or other specialists in order to reduce the need for obtaining repeat exposures in the future.

Can I Refuse to Have X-Rays Taken?

Should you choose to forgo having X-rays taken of your teeth, it is unlikely that your orthodontist will be able to continue with treatment. Without obtaining thorough diagnostic records, there is a real danger in pursuing any type of dental or orthodontic treatment, as these procedures could be risky for your teeth and jaws.

If you have questions or concerns about being X-rayed during orthodontic treatment, please contact us today!

4540 Sand Point Way NE, Suite 140
Seattle WA 98105-3941

Tel: (206) 525-7000
Fax: (206) 525-0479

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