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Why Does the Orthodontist Need to X-Ray?
Orthodontists perform x-rays for different reasons. Patients who have undergone an x-ray at a primary dental expert’s office are often baffled when an orthodontist requires another similar procedure. Dental x-rays don’t always provide comprehensive information that is required by orthodontists. People who have teeth misalignment, for example, need more than one x-ray. An orthodontist x-ray is primarily used as a diagnostic tool before and after the treatment process. The most common x-ray that is performed by orthodontists is the bitewing imaging, which provides a detailed look at individual groups of teeth.
X-rays show the lighter areas of the tooth like the enamel and the fillings as well as the dark sections, such as the bones, root canals, and decay. Orthodontists are trained to assess both areas to identify abnormalities in particular sections of the mouth. Here are other reasons the orthodontist need to x-ray.
To Develop a Treatment Plan
Initial x-rays allow orthodontists to develop treatment plans as they show the individual location of teeth in the mouth. They are taken to provide an accurate assessment of what needs to be done before treatment. X-rays in new patients provide fundamental knowledge regarding their current oral health, and the images are also compared against future oral issues. Existing patients require x-rays to identify new cavities, evaluate the growth and development of teeth, as well as determine gum health.
In case of teeth misalignment, the orthodontist decides the best way to align the teeth and jaw bone by using means like Invisalign and braces. The x-ray also shows underlying issues like tooth abscesses that require fixing before an orthodontic treatment begins. Diagnosing and treating the problems is not only necessary for subsequent dental procedures but the patient’s overall health. Since patients will be visiting the orthodontist frequently than the primary dental experts, he is more likely to diagnose such health problems.
Orthodontists also rely on x-rays to display the length of the tooth roots. Incredibly long or short roots affect the extent of shifting of teeth during treatment. Where the patient suffers from extreme crowding, dental extractions become necessary. X-rays allow the orthodontist to view the roots of such teeth and what is located underneath the gums before removal procedures to avoid damaging other teeth, the soft tissues, and the dental nerve. An orthodontic x-ray also comes in handy to determine the shape of the jaws and how teeth grow.
Apart from the initial consultation, orthodontists recommend x-rays during treatment. Of course, if the initial x-ray provides detailed information for treatment, there may be no need for another procedure. In the case of misalignment of teeth, x-rays help monitor how braces affect the teeth and jaw bones. Thus, an x-ray is performed when realigning teeth. After the teeth are moved to the right position, an additional x-ray is performed to ensure that the orthodontic procedures are completed.
Several factors come into play when performing x-ray procedures – age, dental and overall health, as well as the current status of the patient. Children, for example, need more x-rays than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing, so changes are likely to occur frequently. Additionally, kids are more susceptible to tooth decay that is caused by changes that happen during these early years of development. X-rays are also performed as a precaution to avoid future issues.
People who are likely to develop oral infections also require more x-rays to monitor their teeth for signs of decay. Patients suffering from diabetes, for example, are more prone to gum disease. An orthodontist’s x-ray identifies infections in the gum and whether it is causing jaw or root decay.
During treatment, patients may need additional procedures where the teeth are not moving as expected or where the patient is experiencing unusual discomfort. The x-rays also determine how the treatment affects areas under the gum line. Where the patient reports bleeding, pain, or unpredictable shifting of the teeth, another orthodontist x-ray may be necessary.
After the Treatment
After the patient has received treatment, the expert may recommend another orthodontist x-ray. The procedure shows how the roots are responding to treatment. In cases where the roots shorten due to the stress of the movement, the orthodontist may adjust the treatment plan. X-rays after treatment are also used to ensure roots and jaws are aligned and identify additional issues like the growth of wisdom teeth that need adjustment.
Wisdom teeth often erupt partially, remaining impacted beneath the gums. As such, most of them grow irregularly, hence the need for an x-ray to determine how their development affects the rest of the teeth.
Teeth X-ray Safety
Most patients are skeptical about taking dental x-rays as they expose them to carcinogenic rays. Orthodontists ensure teeth x-ray safety by allowing controlled amounts of radiation and observing extensive safety procedures. Unlike dated x-ray procedures that were associated with a rare brain tumor, gamma radiation is significantly reduced today.
Technology has introduced various advancements and the digital x-rays in use at the moment expose patients to a reduced amount of radiation. They are also required to wear protective aprons to minimize the amount of exposure to the abdomen. Lead aprons make perfect protective wear as they are specially designed to protect the body from radiation exposure. They are used on pregnant women, kids, and women of child-bearing age.
Women are required to inform the orthodontists if they are expectant since imaging tests expose the fetus to radiation. However, if the x-ray is absolutely necessary, the orthodontist takes extra precautions to reduce exposure to the baby. Note that dental experts recommend orthodontist x-rays on rare occasions, hence patients have nothing to worry about. While an orthodontist’s x-ray is only taken to determine the kind of treatment required, it may not be the only procedure for assessment. Most patients undergo 3-5 x-rays in a span of three or four years, which means it is safe to expect one a year for treatment.
What’s more, since x-rays are stored digitally, they can be transmitted to other orthodontists via email. Thus, there is no need for patients to receive additional procedures if there has been little time between the change of dental experts and undergoing the x-ray.
State authorities monitor the use of x-ray machines to avoid misuse. They also inspect the equipment and enforce safety precautions. The staff members who operate dental x-ray machines go through extensive training to ensure that all the guidelines regarding teeth x-ray safety are followed. Be sure to visit the clinic for safe orthodontic x-ray procedures.
Why Does the Orthodontist Need to X-Ray
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Dr. Michael McDermott earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in both Chemistry and Biology from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. He followed his undergraduate degrees with a doctorate in dental surgery at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with highest distinction.
Dr. Mike then furthered his dental education by earning a masters and certificate in Orthodontics at the University of St. Louis in Missouri.