What Is an Intraoral Periapical X-Ray?

X-rays can help your dentist find abnormalities and assess your dental health.
X-rays can help your dentist find abnormalities and assess your dental health. (Image: Teeth and Mouth image by Sujit Mahapatra from Fotolia.com)

Dentists use a wide variety of X-rays when assessing dental health. Dental X-rays are important because they can help identify cysts, diseases and dental abnormalities that are not visible to the eye. They can also be employed to help provide a picture of the overall health of the teeth, jaw and skull.

Intraoral X-rays

An intraoral X-ray is a radiograph that is taken with X-ray film placed inside the patient's mouth. This is the most common method of a dental X-ray. An intraoral X-ray provides a clear picture of the state of the patient's individual teeth, but little information about the placement of the teeth within the jaw. This is in contrast to an extraoral X-ray, which is taken with the X-ray film placed outside the mouth and is primarily used to assess the placement of the dental system within the jaw and skull.

Periapical X-rays

A periapical X-ray is a specific type of intraoral X-ray that is used to investigate the structural integrity of an individual tooth. A periapical X-ray provides an image of a tooth from the tooth's crown to the tip of its root. Periapical X-rays provide a more highly focused, finely detailed image than common bitewing X-rays that survey three-to-four teeth at a time.

Uses of Intraoral Periapical X-rays

Intraoral periapical X-rays are usually used as a method of diagnosing a dental condition. They are commonly used to find the cause of a toothache, which can be due to a root, cyst or abscess. Periapical X-rays are also used in order to assess the amount of damage and bone loss that has been caused by periodontal diseases. They are also taken to assess the quality and integrity of pre-existing dental work.

Full Mouth Series

Intraoral periapical X-rays are also taken as part of the full mouth X-ray series. A dentist will order the full mouth series when attempting to locate abscesses, diseases or tumors that may be located in bones surrounding the teeth. The full-mouth series is also used to assess nerve damage within teeth and can be used to create a full view of dental health for future comparison. The full-mouth X-ray series encompasses 14 periapical X-rays plus four bitewing X-rays, which creates a full view of the patient's teeth.

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