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A Deeper Look into X-Rays

X-rays are commonplace in today’s day and age. This post explains the features behind one of the 3 main X-rays that we dentists use, called the OPG (it may also go by the name DPT). The OPG is the most common and popular of all dental X-rays, mainly due to the ease of use and the information it provides.

In this post (the first of a 3 part series), I shall explain the common features behind the OPG. At the end of this post, you should be able to identify and look out for what we dentists deem as important.Lets start with the first and most obvious structure on the X-ray – your tooth! I have outlined what a normal tooth should look like – that is, without fillings, decay, or any treatment. In this case, the tooth I have outlined is the lower molar.

Counting the teeth, this person has a total of 28 teeth. Humans have a total of 32 teeth, so what happened to the 4 missing teeth? The 4 missing teeth are actually the wisdom teeth. In this case, it looks like this person has had 4 wisdom teeth removed. I have arrowed out where the wisdom teeth were supposed to be.

Looking at the normal tooth, we see that it has different shades of gray on the X ray. Why is this so? This is because the tooth is made up of different components!

Looking at a zoomed in portion of the tooth, the innermost (and darkest) component of your tooth is the root canal. This consists of all the blood vessels and nerves that essentially makes the tooth a living structure.

(Fun fact: Hence, to do a ‘root canal’, as most people will put it, is actually a slight misnomer. What they actually mean is that they need to do a root canal treatment, which involves removing the components of the root canal due to infection and decay. Learn more about root canal treatment here!)

The outermost and whitest part on the X-ray is the enamel layer of the teeth. Enamel is what covers the outer surface of our tooth and is the strongest component of the tooth. It is what helps us chew and eat and what prevents the tooth from wearing down.

The final component lies in between the enamel and the root canal. It has a mid-gray colour to it and makes up the largest part of the tooth. This is the dentine layer of the tooth and it lies in between the enamel and the root canal.

The arrows indicate the teeth which have had some sort of filling done. As you now already know, they appear whiter in colour compared to normal tooth structure.

The final part of this blog post will address the most interesting looking tooth in this X-ray. Look at the tooth outlined in pink This tooth is an upper premolar. What is the difference between this tooth and a normal tooth? Yes, the centre of the tooth is completely white!Why is this so? The tooth has undergone root canal treatment! In a root canal treatment, the original root canal of the tooth is removed and cleaned. The centre of the tooth is then filled with a material to avoid re-infection. Check out my blog post here for an explanation about root canal treatments!

So that’s it folks, this is the end of the first part in our series of Being Your Own Dentist: X-ray edition!

The next part in our series will detail more about what other information you can gather from the OPG X-ray. Stay tuned!

And as usual, please feel free to get in touch with me by filling out the contact form here for any of your dental queries!

Regards,
The Dentist

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