Through intraoral X-ray images, dentists are able to identify dental caries, tooth decay, infections in tooth roots and other abnormalities to the bone structure surrounding the patient's teeth. There are three primary views captured through intraoral X-rays: bitewing views capture the upper and lower arches of the patient's teeth, showing the crowns of teeth to the patient's jaw line; periapical views display a portion of teeth on either the maxillary or mandibular arch and capture the entire image of teeth from the crown to the end root; and a full mouth series consists of a combination of bitewing and periapical views, capturing crowns and roots of teeth and adjacent hard tissue.
Occlusal X-rays capture nearly the entire set of teeth on either the upper or lower arches, with the purpose of highlighting the development of teeth and jaw line. While film was once the dominant method for capturing dental X-ray images, it has since been overtaken by digital and computed radiography.
Capturing intraoral X-rays consists of three main methods. For the first method, intraoral X-ray films are placed inside the patient's mouth and capture X-ray images; after which, the images are developed through the use of chemicals in a dark room. Film processors are able to eliminate the need for chemicals and a dark room and develop film in approximately seven minutes. The disadvantage to using traditional film is that it can only be used once per procedure by the X-ray operator. The second main method uses photostimulable phosphor (PSP) plates, which are handled similarly to traditional film.
The plates contain phosphorus particles which capture the X-ray images and are designed to be re-used an indefinite number of times; however, they often only last in the range of 200 to 2,000 uses. Phosphorus plates are placed into a PSP processing scanner, which may take up to one minute to scan and upload the images into imaging software. Of important note, many of the PSP systems classified under this category offer processing capabilities for both intraoral and extraoral X-ray procedures; however, since the majority of X-ray procedures are performed using intraoral phosphorus plates, they have been positioned under the intraoral X-ray market.
The third main method of capturing intraoral X-rays is through digital sensors, which contain a silicon chip attached to an electronic circuit. The digital sensor comes in two forms: charge-coupled device and complementary metal oxide semiconductor. The technological differences between the two devices are negligible. The main selling point of digital sensors is that they enable X-ray images to be uploaded instantly onto the imaging management software and can be re-used indefinitely.