5 Tips on How to Take Good Dental X-Rays

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A dental x-ray is an important diagnostic tool that your dentist uses to discover problems like tooth decay, abscesses, or bone loss. As a Dental Assistant, you may be required to take dental x-rays and it’s important that you get it right. If you don’t follow the proper steps, you could end up with an unclear image that means you’ll need to retake the x-ray. That costs time and money and causes unnecessary radiation exposure; all of which can frustrate your patients and the dentist. To ensure you capture good x-rays the first time, follow these 5 useful tips:

1. Make Sure the Patient is Comfortable

When the patient is comfortable and relaxed, the process of taking x-rays will go more smoothly. To start, make sure they are comfortable in the chair. If they need to lie back for the x-rays, make sure their head and neck are supported. To avoid triggering their gag reflex, start taking x-rays at the back of the mouth and work toward the front. You can also ask them to hum, breathe deeply, or focus their attention elsewhere to avoid gagging.

It’s also important to make sure the patient is safe. Always place the lead apron or collar on your patient to decrease their radiation exposure. Make sure the X-ray system is placed at a proper distance from the patient, and that the image equipment is regularly tested and inspected.

2. Align the Image Receptor Properly

The image receptor is a tool that is placed in the patient’s mouth to capture the x-ray. If this tool is not placed and aligned properly from the start, it could result in a distorted image. Be sure to position the exposure side of the receptor toward the x-ray source, perpendicular to the occlusal plane. It’s critical to cover the whole examination area of the mouth and to work with the patient to make the process go well. The bite block needs to be placed on the teeth you will image, not the opposing teeth. Place the receptor and bite block and then ask the patient to slowly bite down to hold them in place.

3. Select the Correct Receptor Size

When the film bends, it can distort the image. To avoid a retake, make sure the film fits the patient’s mouth when closed. You can also use a rigid image receptor that is made of hard plastic to avoid bending.

4. Use the Proper Exposure

Always adjust the exposure based on the size of your patient’s mouth as well as the film speed. For example, a child will need less exposure than an adult because of their smaller mouth. And if you use film with a faster speed, which means that it develops more quickly, you can reduce the exposure. If you don’t use the proper exposure, it could result in a dark or blown out image.

5. Include Images of Missing Teeth

It’s easy to assume that if a patient is missing a few teeth, those areas of the mouth don’t need to be x-rayed. But that’s a false assumption. For the dentist to make an accurate diagnosis, they will need to see images of the entire mouth, including portions of the gums that may be missing teeth. Without these images, they could misidentify a problem or prescribe the wrong treatment.

When it comes to taking x-rays, practice makes perfect. As you gain more experience, you’ll be able to take great x-rays the first time, every time. To start honing your skills, enroll in a training program today. At Charter College, we offer a Certificate in Dental Assisting that can prepare you for an entry-level career in the field. Classes are enrolling now. Call 888-200-9942 or fill out the form to learn more.