A Full-Mouth Series (FMX) are various individual x-rays of all the teeth in the mouth. An FMX consists of bitewing x-rays of the back teeth and periapical x-rays of all the erupted teeth. This complete set of x-rays gives the dentist a comprehensive view of all the teeth.
Here is an example of an FMX:
A Panoramic x-ray does not show the detail around the individual teeth as an FMX. But a panoramic x-ray shows the sinuses of the upper jaw, the condyles, and more of the entire jawbone than can be seen in an FMX. This type of x-ray helps the dentist to evaluate bone structures and the position of the wisdom teeth, other impacted teeth, and various types of lesions that could be present.
Here is an example of a panoramic x-ray:
Other x-rays include …
Occlusal x-rays show the view of the teeth as if you were looking down at the chewing surfaces of the teeth of the upper jaw and of the lower jaw. They can show the alignment of the teeth in the dental arches.
A Cephalometric x-ray is used by orthodontists to evaluate the alignment and spacing of the teeth. It can also help the dentist evaluate the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and other facial structural issues.
A Cone Beam CT Scan is unique. All the other x-rays show the teeth and jawbone in a two-dimensional relationship. A Cone Beam CT Scan is a three dimensional image that is more accurate than 2-dimentional x-rays since it allows the dentist to view any area in sections of 360 degrees.
You may not need x-rays every time you go to the dentist.
The first time you see your dentist, an FMX and panoramic x-ray could be extremely helpful to determine if there are issues of concern. These x-rays would become a baseline of the health or disease existing in your mouth.
Thereafter, x-rays should be taken on a “need only” basis.
For example, you may need x-rays once or twice a year if …
You have a history of frequent areas of decay
You have active periodontal disease
You have “dry mouth” (from specific diseases, medications, surgery, cancer treatment, etc.)
You have crowns, bridges, implants, existing root canals or other existing dental procedures
You are emotionally and chronically stressed
Your choices of food encourage tooth decay (sodas, sugars, grains)
You do not follow an efficient and effective oral hygiene program
You are a smoker
You have a metabolic disease
You may require a Cone Beam CT Scan. If you have potential lesions in the jawbone from necrotic teeth, poorly extracted teeth, or other reasons, then your biologically oriented dentist may suggest this three-dimensional scan. In addition, if you have an area that is going to be replaced with a dental implant or have airway obstruction, your dentist may need the information that can only come from a Cone Beam CT Scan.
Final Thoughts on X-Rays:
Every day, we’re exposed to radiation. It comes from the sun, our cell phones, and riding in an airplane. Yet when you get a set of four Bitewing X-rays, the total amount of radiation is less than an average daily dose of radiation in everyday life. And if you took a 7-hour plane ride, you would be exposed to approximately the amount of radiation from 16 small dental X-rays.
To protect you from any scatter radiation, the dentist will drape a lead apron over other parts of your body.
In addition, most dental offices use “digital dental x-rays”. Digital x-rays require less radiation to capture a high-resolution image than the traditional x-rays used several decades ago. Digital dental x-rays may reduce radiation exposure up to 90% from that of traditional dental x-rays years ago.
Also, digital x-rays allow …
The images to be available on a computer screen a few seconds after being taken.
The images to be enhanced and enlarged many times their actual size.
These images to be electronically sent to another dentist or specialist.
The dentist to easily compare the current image to an image taken in the past to determine changes.
Infrequent dental x-rays do not expose you to large amounts of low dose ionizing radiation. But if your dentist does not need x-rays to diagnose a potential problem or an existing problem, you would be better off not having routine x-rays unless there is a medical reason as described above.
As with all dental treatment, always feel free to ask WHY?, and you should receive a response that you feel comfortable with.