Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology

Who is an Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist (OMR)?

An Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist is a dentist with additional advanced specialty training in radiology of the teeth and jaws. They are dentistry’s specialists in radiology.

Oral and maxillofacial radiologists graduate from dental schools, and then complete specialized training for at least two years. During this time they learn appropriate use and interpretation of imaging examinations for the teeth and jaws, radiation effects on humans, and radiation safety and protection.

Please note that anyone interested in Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology may be an AAOMR member, therefore not all AAOMR Members are Oral Maxillofacial Radiologists.

Why do I need dental x-rays?

We use x-rays to make images of the inside of your teeth and bones—areas that are not seen when the dentist looks into your mouth. The information from these x-ray images (or radiographs) helps us diagnose dental decay, periodontal disease, and infections in your jaws. Your dentists needs this information in order to provide you with the best treatment options for your needs.

How often do I need x-rays of my teeth and jaws?

This depends on several factors—your current oral health, your risk for dental decay and periodontal disease, whether you have any symptoms, and much more. Your dentist takes these factors into consideration when she/he prescribes dental x-rays. To guide dentists make the best decisions, the American Dental Association and the Food and Drug Administration have developed documents to describe best practices.

Are x-rays used in dentistry safe?

Dental x-ray images are made using low levels of x-radiation. The risks from these low levels of radiation exposure are relatively minimal. Nevertheless, your dentist will try to minimize the radiation dose you receive using a variety of methods, including using digital technology, customizing the x-ray machine settings to your jaw size, and protecting you with thyroid collars and lead aprons as appropriate.

The AAOMR is a strong advocate of patient safety. We promote and advocate the safe, effective, and judicious use of diagnostic x-ray imaging.

My dentist wants to take bitewing x-rays. What are these different types of dental x-rays? We use several different types of imaging examinations in dentistry. Most often, the images are made using a small film or digital sensor that is placed in your mouth. These are called “periapical” and “bitewing” images. Sometimes, your dentist may need to see a wider area of your jaws and make a “panoramic” x-ray image of your jaws. Occassionally, your dentist may need more detailed information on your jaw anatomy and prescribe a “Cone-beam CT” or “CBCT”.

What is a Cone-Beam Computed Tomography or CBCT? Is it a CT scan?

Cone-beam Computed Tomography, or CBCT for short, is a type of low-dose CT scan that allows us to visualize your teeth and jaws in 3-dimensions. This advanced imaging technology has markedly improved our ability to diagnose and treat several dental and jaw problems. Dental CBCT units have been optimized to make high quality images your teeth and jaws. Dental CBCT examinations expose you to considerably less radiation than the CT scans made in hospital settings.

The AAOMR is at the forefront of guiding the health care community on appropriate and effective use of CBCT imaging in dentistry. We have partnered with other organizations to develop scientifically-based guidelines for use of this technology for optimal patient care and safety.