In any healthcare profession, proper and timely diagnosis is fundamental for creating a successful treatment plan. Diagnosis will include determining the presence of various health concerns and then defining the type and severity, as well as discovering any underlying causes.
Fortunately, in dentistry, many diagnoses can be determined through visual inspection with the use of helpful tools like lights, mirrors, probes, and explorers. However, it is still essential that dentists be able to have a closer look at the inner workings of the teeth and jaw so that all structures are visible for proper diagnosis. This is a simple enough task with the use of X-rays.
To learn more about the benefits of digital x-rays read our last blog here.
Throughout history, dental x-rays have seen significant advancement in their capabilities, from film to digital and the emergence of intraoral bitewings. Bitewing x-rays show the details of both the upper and lower teeth in one area of the mouth. They show the entirety of the tooth from the exposed portion down to the root inside the jawbone. As dental equipment has advanced, there are two main types of bitewing x-rays: intraoral and extraoral.
Keep reading to learn more about the differences between intraoral and extraoral bitewing x-rays.
Intraoral Versus Extraoral Bitewing Dental X-Rays
The first main difference between intraoral and extraoral bitewing x-rays is how they are taken. In correspondence with the name, intraoral bitewings are x-rays where the film (or with digital x-rays the sensor) is placed inside the mouth, and extraoral bitewings are taken outside the mouth.
While intraoral bitewings may be more common, research suggests that extraoral bitewing x-rays provide more anatomical detail. Modern dental x-ray equipment allows for 360-degree rotation of the radiation exposure through a panoramic image taken externally.
There are a few other reasons that might make extraoral bitewing x-rays more fitting for a patient. In the case of patients with missing teeth, it might be too difficult to hold the film or sensor in the proper position to take the x-ray. Additionally, in the case of various infections in the orofacial structure, there may be swelling or a restriction of movement in the jaw.
For these reasons, patients might find it too uncomfortable to perform an intraoral bitewing x-ray. Similarly, patients with a strong gag reflex might have a too heightened sensitivity to the receptors being held inside the mouth. In these instances, performing an extraoral bitewing x-ray will be easier to use and more comfortable for the patient.
Capturing dental x-rays has never been easier with the advancements that dental x-ray equipment has seen, and now with panoramic x-ray equipment, dental professionals no longer have to place a sensor in the patient’s mouth. As previously mentioned, this is beneficial in many instances where the patient is otherwise unable or uncomfortable with having a sensor in the mouth.
However, having intraoral bitewings taken requires the patient to bite down on the sensor in order to take the x-ray, and this is often uncomfortable for all patients. The sensors can be a “sharp” feeling in the mouth and can be irritating to the gums and roof of the mouth.
Extraoral bitewing x-rays also make patient positioning easier, which is beneficial to both the dental team and the patient. Typically, patients can either stand or sit during a panoramic x-ray, which can help reduce patient movement and the need to reposition. This can overall provide an improved x-ray experience for patients.
Extraoral bitewing x-rays offer the benefit of only having one step and not having to reposition a sensor or film inside the patient’s mouth. With intraoral bitewings, the dental professional must position and reposition the sensor in the patient’s mouth, with the possibility of human error. This can increase the amount of time that the patient is in the office. Overall, extraoral bitewing x-rays are faster because the need for positioning a sensor is eliminated.
However, while extraoral bitewing x-rays have many benefits, research suggests that intraoral x-rays are better at finding cavities, decay between teeth, and changes in the bone density that is caused by gum disease.
The downside to extraoral bitewing x-rays is that often the dental x-ray units that are able to complete them with a panoramic view are often significantly more expensive machines. This means that in terms of price for the dental practice, intraoral bitewing x-ray equipment may be the better choice if they are looking for a less expensive unit.
If your dental practice is interested in purchasing an intraoral sensor, Capital Dental Equipment offers six manufacturers to choose from with a range in prices. Our sales team is available to help work with you on determining which sensor would work best with your current imaging software.
If you are looking for adding a dental x-ray unit with panoramic and extraoral bitewing capabilities, Capital Dental Equipment offers both new and recertified equipment. All recertified dental units offer savings of up to 35-40% off and include machines from the following manufacturers: RayScan America, VaTech, PlanMeca, Carestream, Sirona, and Gendex.