The types of x-rays typically taken are a panoramic x-ray and bitewing x-rays. A Panoramic, or PAN for short, is taken to visualize all of the teeth in relation to the jaw bones and joints. This x-ray is a great tool used to help observe impacted teeth, some joint disease of the jaw, jaw tumors, and other lesions common in the jaw bones. The PAN is also often used for Oral Surgery when planning the removal of teeth or the placement of dental implants.
Bitewings are taken on a more regular basis (usually annually or biannually) to assist the doctor in diagnosing interproximal (between the teeth) decay. Most cavities between the teeth, particularly in the back, cannot be visualized by simply looking in the mouth until they are large enough to cause a significant hole in the area; however, waiting until a hole is present is not recommended. Many times, the decay has progressed to a point that the affected tooth will require more extensive treatment such as a root canal, crown, or even extraction.
The doctor will decide if these or other images are necessary in determining the best course of treatment for each patient.
Periodontal charting is a very important diagnostic tool in dentistry. This exam, in conjunction with x-ray images, provides the information the doctor needs to diagnose periodontal (gum/ bone) health. Several measurements are made around each tooth to determine if the gums and bone supporting that tooth are healthy. If disease is found, the doctor can tailor the course of treatment to address the teeth needing more specific management. Teeth can only be maintained in the mouth if their support is strong enough to do so. Addressing periodontal problems early is key in maintaining healthy smiles for a lifetime.
Lastly, but certainly just as important, you will receive an oral cancer screening. This is also performed on a regular basis (usually annually) to help catch any abnormalities early in their progression. This part of the exam is simple, quick, and painless but goes a long way in treating problems while they are in a much more manageable stage of development.
We believe that these things are critical pieces of diagnosis and, therefore, comprehensive treatment. Every patient deserves to be fully informed of their dental needs and deserves to be educated about the options that will better their dental health.