Full-Mouth X-rays:The Process
A full-mouth series of X-rays includes approximately 20 X-rays, including four bitewing X-rays and periapical X-rays of each tooth. Full-mouth X-rays are often performed when a patient is new to a dental office. Follow-up full-mouth X-rays are then performed every four to five years, all depending on the patient’s oral health.
Full-mouth X-rays are incredibly useful for dentists as they can cover many aspects of a patient's oral health in one sitting. So, if a patient has a number of dental issues, such as tooth decay and bone loss, these can be diagnosed in one series of X-rays.
What Conditions are Detected?
Full-mouth X-rays (sometimes referred to by the acronym FMX) help uncover a wide range of conditions. With FMX scans, the dentist can diagnose conditions such as:
- Interproximal cavities.Interproximal cavities are those that occur in the areas between teeth. These are the areas hardest to access with a toothbrush, which also means a majority of cavities occur in these areas. Interproximal cavities are fairly easy to detect using an X-ray and usually appear as dark spots in the radiograph.
- Tooth decay below fillings. When a filling is compromised it can create an environment that is difficult to clean and home to bacterial infections. While somewhat rare, tooth decay can occur below a filling, and these are usually diagnosed with the help of an X-ray scan.
- Bone loss. Bone loss in the maxilla or mandible can reveal itself in the form of loose teeth, changes in bite, and other conditions. Although, arriving at a diagnosis often requires the use of an X-ray scan.
- Bitewing X-rays. Bitewing X-rays are some of the most common types of radiographs performed by dentists. Bitewings give dentists insights into the health and positioning of the teeth below the gums. These are useful in diagnosing interdental cavities (cavities between teeth) as well as diagnosing gum disease (periodontitis). Bitewings derive their name from how the radiographs are performed. When you sit for a bitewing X-ray, the film portion will be placed near your tongue and you will be asked to bite down on a tab.
- Periapical (PA) X-rays. Periapical X-rays focus in on one tooth, from the crown to the tip of the root. PAs are used to identify infections near the root as well as in the root canal and pulp. Periapical radiographs are explained in great detail on CG Smile’s Periapical X-rays page.
Defining the Types of X-rays in an FMX
Full-mouth X-rays include both bitewing X-rays and periapical X-rays. We’ve outlined these terms so you can better understand what each involve.
What is an FMX? Full-mouth X-rays are sometimes referred to by the acronym FMX. So if the dentist mentions an FMX to a colleague, they are likely referring to a full-mouth X-ray.
What are Survey X-rays?
Since full-mouth X-rays are often used to establish a patient’s oral health, they are sometimes referred to as survey X-rays.
How Much Radiation is Released in an FMX?
With all types of ionizing radiation, there is always some degree of risk. Not including the food you eat, simply living on Earth exposes you to around 10 microsieverts of radiation each day. Full-mouth X-rays will expose you to approximately 35 microsieverts of ionized radiation. An FMX actually gives off less radiation than you would experience during a seven-hour flight!
Even though the level of radiation you will be exposed to during an FMX is relatively low, the staff of CG Smile still takes all the necessary safety precautions. We will ask if you are (or might be) pregnant. You will wear a lead apron and lead thyroid collar to further minimize your exposure.