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Dental X-rays: The Inside Story

April 14th, 2021

We’re all friends here, so if you sometimes feel a bit nervous before your dental appointment, no judging! Ask us about any worries you might have. We are happy to explain procedures, equipment, and sedation options so you know just how safe and comfortable your experience can be. And if X-rays are a concern, we can put your mind at ease here as well.

What Exactly Are X-rays?

Sometimes patients feel reluctant about the process of imaging because X-rays are a kind of radiation. But the fact is, radiation is all around us. We are exposed to radiation naturally from our soil and water, sun and air, as well as from modern inventions such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, and air travel.

Why is radiation so common? Because matter throughout the universe constantly gives off energy, and the energy that is emitted is termed radiation. This radiation takes two forms—as particles (which we don’t need to consider!) and as traveling rays. This second type is known as electromagnetic radiation, created by photons traveling in regular waves at the speed of light.

We are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day, because, whether we can see them or not, these different wavelengths and frequencies create various forms of light. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays are all part of the electromagnetic light spectrum.

Different types of radiation on this spectrum have different wavelengths and different frequencies, and produce different amounts of energy. Longer wavelengths mean lower frequencies and less energy. Because X-rays have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than, for example, radio waves and visible light, they have more energy.

How Do Dental X-rays Work?

An X-ray machine produces a very narrow beam of X-ray photons. This beam passes through the body and captures images of our teeth and jaws on special film or digital sensors inside the mouth (intraoral X-rays), or on film or sensors located outside the mouth (extraoral X-rays). These X-ray images are also known as radiographs.

Why are X-rays able to take pictures inside our bodies? Remember that higher energy we talked about earlier? This energy enables X-rays to pass through the softer, less dense parts of our bodies, which are seen as gray background in a radiograph. But some substances in our bodies absorb X-rays, such as the calcium found in our bones and teeth. This is why they show up as sharp white images in radiographs.  

There are different types of common dental X-rays which are used for a number of reasons:

  • Bitewing X-rays, which are used to check on the health of the back teeth.
  • Periapical X-rays, which allow us to look at one or two specific teeth from crown to root.
  • Occlusal X-rays, which show the entire arch of teeth in the upper or lower jaw.
  • Panoramic X-rays, which use a special machine to rotate around the head to create a complete two-dimensional picture of teeth and jaws.
  • Cone Beam Computed Tomography, an external device which uses digital images to create a three-dimensional picture of the teeth and jaws.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

If all of our dental conditions were visible on the surface, there would be no need for X-rays. But there are many conditions that can only be discovered with the use of imaging—infection, decay, a decrease in bone density, or injuries, for example, can show up as darker areas in the teeth or jaws. Among their many diagnostic uses, X-rays can help us find:

  • Cavities between teeth or under old fillings
  • Damage to the tooth’s pulp which might require root canal treatment
  • Injuries to teeth or roots after trauma
  • Abscesses, tumors, or other conditions that might be causing swelling or pain
  • Position and development of wisdom teeth
  • Ideal placement for implants
  • Health and density of the jaw and alveolar bone

X-rays can also serve an important preventative role, by discovering small problems before they become major ones.

How Do Dentists Make Sure Your X-rays Are As Safe As They Can Be?

First of all, the amount of radiation you are exposed to with a dental X-ray is very small. In fact, a set of bitewing X-rays exposes us to slightly less than the amount of radiation we are exposed to through our natural surroundings in just one day. Even so, Dr. Kozica and our team are committed to making sure patients are exposed to as little radiation as possible.

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging have been designed to make sure all patients have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. We ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • When treating children, we set exposure times based on each child’s size and age.

And now that we’ve talked about some things you might like to know,

Please Let Us Know If . . .

  • You’re a new patient, with previous X-rays taken during regular exams or for specific procedures. Ask to have your older X-rays sent to our office. With digital X-ray technology, this transfer can be accomplished with e-mail! Having your dental history available lets us notice any changes that have taken place.
  • You’re pregnant, or think you might be pregnant. Even though radiation exposure is very low with dental radiographs, unless there is a dental emergency, dentists and doctors recommend against X-rays for pregnant patients.

X-rays play an important part in helping us make sure your teeth stay their healthiest. If you have any concerns, contact our Worcester office. When it comes to making sure you’re comfortable with all of our procedures, including any X-rays that might be necessary, we’re happy to give you all the inside information!

Fluoride Treatment: Do You Need One?

April 7th, 2021

Over the past decade, most people have been ingesting less and less fluoride. This is not such a great trend, since fluoride has a history of successfully reducing tooth decay and promoting good dental health. Most of us drink bottled water now, so many children and adults are not getting the optimum amount of fluoride they need. Of course, dental needs vary, depending on such factors as age, tooth sensitivity, medical conditions, and risk for cavities, but there are several ways to make sure you get the proper amount of fluoride.

Fluoride can be applied in the form of foam, varnish, or mouthwash. For children, topical fluoride can be useful in the early stages of development to ensure the future strength of enamel. For people who have a dry mouth as the result of medication to treat anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, or high cholesterol, a daily fluoride rinse is recommended, as well as a varnish treatment. 

If you’ve received or are receiving any form of cancer treatment, that could be affecting your dental health. If such is the case, fluoride varnish treatments are recommended prior to, during, and after chemotherapy. Getting an oral infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, so it’s worthwhile to do as much as you can to prevent that.

If you suspect you might be in need of a fluoride treatment or have any questions about the treatments Kozica Dental offers, please feel free to give our Worcester office a call!

Tooth Sensitivity

March 24th, 2021

Most of us know that unpleasant feeling. You’re happily enjoying an icy milkshake with lunch or having a piping hot cappuccino break, and suddenly an innocent binge turns to cringe—your tooth sensitivity has crossed another item off the menu. If heat, cold, even the act of brushing cause you tooth discomfort, we have solutions for you. Let’s look at some of the common reasons for tooth sensitivity and how to prevent it.

  • Bad Brushing Habits

There can be too much of a good thing! Aggressive brushing, especially with firm toothbrushes, can damage enamel. When the dentin underneath is exposed, heat and cold can reach the sensitive inner tooth and trigger discomfort.

Go easy on yourself: Switch to a soft bristled or electric toothbrush and brush thoroughly but gently. It’s often suggested that we massage rather than scrub. We can also recommend toothpastes that can help reduce sensitivity.

  • Gum Disease

As gum disease progresses, the gums start to pull away from the teeth and expose their roots. Even though the roots are protected by cementum, a covering a lot like enamel, they are more sensitive to heat and cold. And if you are an aggressive brusher, the cementum is more easily damaged than enamel, leaving the sensitive roots even less protected.

Prevention is the answer: Brushing and flossing help prevent gum disease, as do your regular exams and cleanings. If you are suffering from more advanced gum disease (periodontitis), Dr. Kozica can suggest advanced treatment to protect your roots, such as deep cleanings and gum grafts. Don’t let periodontitis go untreated, as it can lead to infection and even tooth loss.

  • Your Diet

If your enamel is already compromised, sugary foods and acidic foods can cause tooth discomfort.

Be patient: Until your sensitivity problem is under control, avoiding these types of foods will help. On the other hand, sugary and acidic foods aren’t the ideal dental diet, so cutting back is not a bad idea.

  • Your Dental Products

Mouthwash, whitening toothpastes and home whitening products contain substances such as alcohol or bleaching agents that can cause sensitivity in some users.

Make some changes to your shopping list: Choose products without alcohol or whiteners. Talk to us about gentler alternatives for mouthwashes and whitening.

  • Tooth Injuries

If you have a cavity, a broken filling, a cracked tooth, or some other injury to the tooth, sensitivity can be a warning sign.

Take care of yourself: Call our Worcester office immediately if you have prolonged sensitivity or any other painful symptom. Repairing and restoring your damaged tooth should eliminate this discomfort. And, while it is often common to experience some degree of sensitivity after dental work, if this doesn’t clear up within a short time, let us know.

  • Teeth Grinding

Because grinding also wears away enamel, tooth grinders often suffer from sensitive teeth.

Protect yourself: We can fit you for a custom nightguard that will eliminate the nightly stress on your enamel. It can also help the tooth and jaw pain caused by grinding.

Talk to us about any sensitivity you have been experiencing, especially if it has been going on for a while or is causing you real discomfort. We will explore the possible reasons for your tooth sensitivity and help you find solutions. After all, you should feel free to enjoy any item on the menu, in the very best of dental health.

Dental Emergencies in Children

March 17th, 2021

Unfortunately, dental emergencies can sometimes be unavoidable among young children. The good news is Dr. Kozica can help you prepare in case you and your child find yourselves in any of the following situations.

Teething

Starting at about four months and lasting up to three years, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. It’s common for teething children to grow irritable and become prone to drooling due to tender gums. Give your child a cold teething ring or rub his or her gums with your finger to help relieve the discomfort.

Loss of Teeth

If a baby tooth is knocked out in an accident, bring your child to our Worcester office to make sure damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. Permanent teeth can sometimes grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. In this situation, Dr. Kozica should examine your child to make sure teeth are growing in properly. This can prevent serious issues from arising later in adulthood.

Gum Issues

Bleeding gums could mean several things. They may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which results from poor oral hygiene. Gums may also bleed if a youngster is brushing too hard or has suffered an injury to the gum tissue.

Rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply pressure to the area if bleeding continues. Don’t hesitate to contact our Worcester office if you are concerned so we can schedule an appointment.

As a parent, you can provide the best education for your children on proper oral hygiene habits. If you some coaching, ask Dr. Kozica for tips during your next appointment.

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