Bitewing x-rays are the routine x-rays that the dentist takes to check for cavities in between the teeth. These x-rays are important because tiny cavities can be spotted when they first start forming. Catching cavities at that stage is extremely helpful in catching decay while it is small and easily treated with just a filling. If a cavity gets large enough that it can be seen with the naked eye then there is a great possibility that the decay could already be in the nerve. If that is the case, then what could have been a few hundred dollars worth of dentistry to fix could suddenly cost thousands of dollars to repair. Bitewing x-rays are also very helpful in seeing bone damage due to periodontal (gum) disease. As the disease progresses, it causes the bone that holds the teeth in to erode away. If left unchecked, the damage to the bone could be so severe that teeth could be lost. Seeing this damage in it’s early stages can alert the dentist that there is a problem brewing. Since once bone is lost, the damage is irreversible, so catching bone loss before before it happens is very important.
Whenever a tooth is lost, there is a mandatory healing period. Most people don’t want to walk around snaggle-toothed until a month or two has passed. There are some temporary measures that can be done in the interim to avoid the embarrassment of going without a front tooth.
If a bridge is planned, then the teeth on either side of the extraction site can be prepared (removing the enamel) and a plastic temporary can be constructed. This way, the patient can leave the office with their smile intact. One to two months waiting time is necessary before taking final impressions because the gums will recede during that time. If the permanent bridge is started too early, then there will be a hole between the artificial tooth and the gum will appear.
Another option is a temporary partial denture called a flipper. This nickname is very descriptive because the denture tends to flip around in the mouth during function. It has a plastic plate that covers the roof of the mouth, so it will affect taste and speech. But at least one can leave the office with teeth to smile with.