Interesting Case: Why Dentists Need a Full Series of X-rays


A senior citizen with a history of good dental care throughout his life, called up saying that he has a loose tooth. He said it was an upper molar and, because it’s loose, he couldn’t close down all the way. Since our schedules were not jiving perfectly, he wanted to know if it was OK for him to pull the tooth!

When he came in, he informed us that he recently had a full series of x-rays at another office, so we contacted that office to have all x-rays emailed. In the meantime, we took an x-ray of the tooth in question while we were waiting, and it was a bigger deal than a loose tooth. When the full set of x-rays actually arrived, the full extent of the problem was revealed. This patient had a tooth that had a root canal and the root had fractured. The loose tooth was actually a loose crown that was still attached to the root canal filling material. In front of that tooth there is a molar with infection around it that also needs to be extracted. That tooth has deteriorated beyond needing a root canal. If that is not all, he has a wisdom tooth behind the loose crown that has very little bone and should be extracted as well. There is also little room between the root of the teeth and the sinuses. Without the aid of x-rays, I could only make a few guesses as to what is actually going on.

Dentists want to help their patients and do a nice job with the best, most comfortable result possible. But the dentist needs as much data as he can get, and a full set of x-rays, or a panoramic x-ray has been a standard for care in this scenario. If this patient decides to have dental implants, then a CT scan, which gives a three dimensional view of the area, is taken. That will help to guide the proper placement of the dental implant.