X-rays in Dentistry (Part I of II)

Panoramic (full-mouth) x-ray

X-rays were discovered in 1895 by German physicist, Wilhelm Röntgen. He also discovered the medical application of x-rays when he passed his hand in front of a barium screen and noticed a shadow of his skeleton. The ability to see inside the body has been a big boom for diagnosis in dentistry. A tiny burst of x-rays aimed between the teeth will show cavities in their early stages before they can be detected by visual examination. As the x-rays pass through the teeth, the high density of tooth structure will stop the x-rays from reaching the film. Decay is less dense because the acid from bacterial plaque leaches out the calcium. Therefore, more x-rays are able to pass through that point. The more x-rays that pass through, the darker the point on the x-ray film. The dentist will look at the film for dark spots against a white background in order to detect decay. The middle and later stages of gum disease can also be detected because the disease will attack the bone. With less density of the bone, the damaged bone will show up on an x-ray film as darker and therefore the extent of the disease can be better quantified.

Bleeding Gums

If you ever notice blood on your tooth brush after brushing your teeth, chances are that there is gum disease present. There should not be one drop of blood present on a brush or floss after use. These warning signs should be heeded earlier as opposed with later. Before you run to the dentist with bleeding gums, it is best to try a regimen of good oral hygiene first. Just simple but thorough brushing and flossing a couple of times a day can go a long way in stopping bleeding gums. I have actually had patients who have told me that they purposely did not floss because every time that they did, it made their gums bleed. What they didn’t realize was that by not flossing, it left the bacterial plaque behind that is the cause of the bleeding in the first place. The patients were thinking that the mechanical cleaning with the floss was what was causing the bleeding to occur, whereas, it was actually the gum disease itself that caused the problem. It may still take a trip to the dentist for a professional cleaning for the bleeding to subside. But by doing the good home care ahead of time, it can be the first step toward eliminating gum disease in your mouth.