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Why Does the Orthodontist Need an X-ray?

xrayOrthodontics is a special branch of dental medicine that focuses on achieving optimal alignment for the teeth, bite and jaw. Traditional treatment has focused on the use of braces to achieve this goal. Today, in addition to metal braces, there are a number of other treatments, such as Invisalign and Damon Clear braces that are also available for patients who prefer other options. But one thing has not changed in the field or orthodontics, and that is the need to take x-rays before beginning a course of orthodontic treatment.

How X-Rays Work

X-ray technology uses a beam of radiation plus some kind of a marker or sensor to capture an image of a specific area of the body. The sensor or marker acts to shadow the area being imaged and show what is beneath the surface of the bones and skin in the jaw area. The shadow being cast by the sensor also causes certain areas to show up as darker or lighter, denser or more translucent. By “reading” the x-ray image, orthodontic professionals can pinpoint areas of special concern that need to be incorporated into a comprehensive care plan.

How X-Rays Help With Care

X-rays, or “radiographs,” capture a great deal of detail about what is going on in the mouth “behind the scenes.” For starters, your provider will be looking for all of the following:

  • Erupting teeth.
  • Impacted teeth.
  • Crowded teeth.
  • Extra (supernumerary) or Missing teeth.

In addition to highlighting the presence of impacted, damaged or diseased teeth, x-rays can show differences in all of the following:

  • Tissue densities.
  • Root lengths.
  • Tissue abnormalities (i.e., abscesses).

X-rays also allow specialists to assess the overall health of the enamel (the hard outer covering on each tooth) and identify the presence of earlier fillings, root canals and other work.

X-rays will also pick up on issues related to all of the following:

  • Bone health (including bone density).
  • Bones that are too big or small, to short or too tall.
  • Cracks and fissures in the bone.
  • Diseases (such as periodontal disease, etc).

As such, x-rays provide a map of sorts to guide the orthodontic specialist in creating a highly customized, individual treatment plan for each patient’s mouth. With the detailed visual information provided from the x-rays, it is possible to create a care plan that will best serve each patient.

How Many X-Rays Will Be Needed During Treatment

The exact number of x-rays required for a full course of orthodontic treatment can vary from patient to patient. Most patients should expect x-rays to be taken at the start and at the finish of orthodontic treatment.

Here is a typical schedule of x-rays:

X-ray #1:

After the initial orthodontic consultation after a patient has been assessed and determined to be a good candidate for orthodontia. This set of x-rays is diagnostic in nature and allows the treatment provider to get an accurate picture of the patient’s mouth and then begin designing a customized treatment plan.

X-ray #2:

Following orthodontic treatment, the orthodontist will capture a final set of x-rays evaluate outcomes and make any additional recommendations, including an evaluation of the third molars (“wisdom teeth”)

Why Modern X-Rays are Safer

When x-ray technology was first invented, it was thought that only a very strong beam of radiation could accurately capture the inner picture the x-ray would be taking. However, since then, new technology has emerged that allows for use of a much milder radiation beam. We only use low dose digital xrays for our patients at Gorton & Schmohl Orthodontics

Additional Safe Imaging Techniques

As well, there are additional imaging techniques, such as laser beam technology, that require no use of radiation at all. These 3D laser light scans have also eliminated the need for messy and uncomfortable mouth impressions when a picture is needed to make a retainer, expanders or set of Invisalign retainers.

What to Expect When You Seek Orthodontic Care

The most important decision you will make when you begin seeking orthodontic care is your choice of provider. You will be entrusting your provider with the health of your teeth, tissues and bones as well as your desire for a beautiful white smile.

In the initial consultation, you should make sure you feel comfortable with your new orthodontist. Check to be sure the orthodontist you are considering is certified by the American Board of Orthodontics (only 35 percent of the nation’s orthodontists currently hold this exclusive and voluntary certification). You should also take a tour of the office and make sure it is clean and professional in appearance with a comfortable waiting and exam area.

As part of the consultation, you should ask your new provider to outline the recommended care plan that will give you the results you want. Check with your insurance (if you have dental insurance) to see what is covered and how coverage and reimbursement works.

Contact Us Today for Expert Orthodontic Care

At Gorton & Schmohl Orthodontics, we take a natural approach to orthodontic care. By using the very latest progressive, safe diagnosis and treatment protocols, while minimizing tooth extraction and invasive procedures, we provide our patients with the beautiful, healthy smiles they crave. Contact us to learn more and schedule an appointment.

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