Bitewings – Three Films - Dental Procedure Code Description
Periodic and comprehensive oral evaluations to monitor your oral and overall health frequently employ the use of radiographs (X-rays), to help visualize your teeth and bones in ways not possible via the naked eye.
Accidentally discovered on November 8, 1895 by German physics professor Wilhelm Röntgen, X-rays have been a staple of modern medicine ever since. Since that time, many improvements to the delivery of X-ray radiation have also been accomplished, and today, exposure has been minimized dramatically. In fact, digital X-rays, which deliver even less radiation than traditional film-based X-rays, have quickly become commonplace in dental offices throughout the world.
It is worth noting that in discussing this code, the word “film” will be used interchangeably to represent both digital and traditional film-based X-rays, as is still often the case, and because the code does not discriminate between either process.
In this procedure, X-rays are taken of the posterior teeth (those in the rear of the mouth), and only three films are taken in total. Commonly, four films are taken, but if you are missing teeth on any one side in the very rear of your mouth, only three will be necessary. These X-rays are called “bitewing” because the paper or plastic tab attached to the film that you bite down on allows the film or digital sensor to hover between your bite in a similar fashion to an airplane wing. These tabs which surround either the traditional film or a digital sensor are connected to the center of these objects, and referred to as bite-wing “loops.”
A bitewing view is taken to allow your dentist to detect decay and hairline fracture in the crowns of your molars, as well as any potential aveolar bone loss, which may exist. The aveolar is the region of bone in the jaw that holds the teeth intact. Four bitewing films are generally required to obtain an adequate view, and these films capture images of the teeth from the molar furthest back in your mouth, forward to the canine teeth. Should deeper views be deemed necessary that capture more of the root in addition to the crown, the bitewing loops can be turned 180° from their typical position so they are longer from north to south, than east to west, in order to capture more of the aveolar and overall jawbone structure. Other options include periapical X-rays, which captures a view of the entire tooth, or a panoramic X-ray which captures a 360° view of the entire skull.