What Are Dental X-Rays Used For?

We’re all used to showing our teeth off for photographs. But when it comes to your dentist in Boerne, we’re more interested in you smiling for a different kind of picture — dental x-rays. Chances are you’ve experienced these diagnostic images at your dental appointments, but what exactly are dental x-rays used for?  

A Closer Look at Dental X-Rays

There’s not much difference between dental x-rays and ones a physician may take of your leg or arm. X-rays in general use energy to capture images of dense areas inside the body such as bones. Dental x-rays, in particular, are used to show the teeth and bones surrounding the mouth and can help your dentist in Boerne find problems or potential problems. 

Types of Dental X-Rays

Even though all dental x-rays will show your dentist hard areas in your mouth, there are a variety of different types of x-rays that are used to show different things. 

  • Bitewing X-Rays – Can show your dentist the top and bottom teeth in a specific section of your mouth in the same photo. 
  • Periapical X-Rays – These images show the entire tooth from the top of the crown to the tip of the root. 
  • Occlusal X-Rays – Show the top (roof) or bottom (floor) of a mouth. 
  • Panoramic X-Rays – Displaying an all-encompassing view, panoramic x-rays show the entire mouth from left to right and even up into the sinuses and down into the jaws. 

How Do X-Rays Help Your Dentist? 

Taking a deeper view into the mouth can help your dentist in Boerne see problematic areas before they even show any outward signs or symptoms. When dental problems are caught early, it makes treatment easier and relieves the patient from experiencing potential pain that probably would have resulted from letting a problem go. Here are a few things your dentist can see with the help of x-rays. 

  • Cavities 

If you’ve ever had a cavity that has progressed into a larger area of decay, you probably noticed some sensitivity or pain in the area. These types of cavities can usually be seen with the naked eye. However, when cavities are still teeny tiny or are wedged in between teeth, they can show no signs and may be missed during a visual exam. This is where x-rays can make a huge difference. X-rays can show these cavities early when treatment is easy.

  • Infections

Infections inside a tooth, also known as an abscess, can be a real pain — literally. So when a patient has a toothache or throbbing tooth pain, their dentist will probably start by taking a few x-rays to get a better idea of what’s going on. X-rays can show deep into the tooth roots and will highlight infections. An abscess may require a root canal, potentially a dental crown, or even an extraction. 

  • Bone Loss 

Besides teeth, our jawbones are also an important part of our overall oral health. After all, they help hold our teeth in place. But things like age, osteoporosis, gum disease, and prior tooth loss can weaken the bone structure, most of the time without you even knowing it. Dental x-rays can show the progression of bone loss and help your dentist find a solution that’s right for you. 

Dental x-rays are a safe way to identify problems lurking below the surface. Depending on your specific needs and health history, your dentist may recommend taking x-rays anywhere from every six months to every three years. 

Love, Hearts, and… Gum Disease?

Each and every February, loved ones throughout the United States go above and beyond preparing for Valentine’s Day. Whether you choose to show your love with chocolates or flowers, one thing remains constant — bright red hearts are everywhere we look. But there’s another reason (besides Valentine’s Day) that we should pay attention to these hearts. February is American Heart Health Month and focuses on raising awareness of how daily choices affect our risk of heart disease. In fact, this holiday has a special place in your Boerne dentist’s heart because there is a strong connection between oral health and heart health. 

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is an infection in the gum tissues usually caused by a buildup of bacteria and plaque. When someone doesn’t brush their teeth often enough or well enough, plaque is left behind and can easily work its way up under the gum, settle in, and cause trouble. 

There are four stages of gum disease including: 

  • Gingivitis
  • Slight Periodontal Disease
  • Moderate Periodontal Disease
  • Advanced Periodontal Disease

Gum disease can be treated if caught in the gingivitis stage, so make sure you visit your dentist in Boerne every six months for dental cleanings, x-rays, and thorough exams so we can identify any problems early.

What Does This Have to Do With Your Heart?

If gingivitis isn’t diagnosed and treated quickly it will progress into slight, moderate, or advanced periodontal disease, all of which are irreversible. When gum disease progresses into these advanced stages, the infection can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. This can affect areas outside of the mouth, including the heart.  

Heart Disease 

Bacteria from gum disease in the bloodstream causes the body to produce too much C-reactive protein (CRP). Higher than normal levels of CRP can lead to serious conditions such as: 

  • Inflamed arteries
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes 

Knowing that your oral health can have such an impact on your overall wellness makes it so incredibly important that you practice good oral hygiene habits at home, including brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing every day.   

Signs of Gum Disease

Since early diagnosis is so crucial to treating gum disease before it has the chance to affect the rest of your body, you need to know the signs of gum disease. Keep an eye out for: 

  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing
  • Puffy, tender gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth  

If you notice any of the signs of gum disease, call your dentist in Boerne to schedule an appointment

This American Heart Health Month, commit to reducing your chances of heart disease by brushing and flossing every day, seeing your dentist in Boerne twice a year, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. For more ideas on how to live a heart-healthy life, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute