There are two main types of X-rays used in dentistry.
The type most familiar to patients is the Bite Wing (or Periapical). This is standard equipment at all dentists. It uses a small rectangular film that fits into the mouth and is held either by the patient’s finger or a small plastic frame. This film gives a detailed picture of the structure of the tooth and the surrounding bone. It is used to detect tooth decay, bone infection, and periodontal disease (gum disease). Usually these X-rays are repeated about every 2 years.
Orthopantomograph (or OPG for short) is a large X-ray taken from outside the mouth by a machine that rotates around the head and shows the entire lower face in one exposure. In children, the OPG is extremely useful for assessing that their teeth are developing correctly. Later, it is excellent for monitoring wisdom teeth. For adults, the OPG is also very good at diagnosing gum disease and abscesses, even where they are not yet giving problems. The OPG is not a requirement for NHS practices and is not available at many private practices either. However, at Combe Road we think it is an essential tool in the early and thorough diagnosis of dental disease.
The over-use of X-rays is well documented and at Combe Road we all keep up to date with the latest National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) guidelines. The speed of the film used in dentistry has increased very significantly over the last 10 years, so the dose to the patient has decreased. Because the level of exposure is now so low, we are no longer required to wear detection badges.