Dental X-Rays

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We all know about X-Rays. This technique has been used for over a century with great success to help us find various bodily changes and disease signs. It has been successfully used in dentistry, too. Dental X-Rays can help your dentist get a quick and detailed glance at your teeth and find possible signs of cavities or early decay.

Types of X-Rays

Full mouth series of X-rays gives dentists the full picture of patients’ teeth and adjacent hard tissue. It is composed of 18 films and is taken during your first visit to the dentist office and once every 4 to 5 years thereafter.

Bitewing X-rays show the upper and lower teeth in one area of the mouth. They are good for displaying the crowns of the posterior teeth or for revealing interdental caries and recurrent caries.

Periapical X-rays (PA’s) are used to take a full image of a single tooth from the very top of the tooth to the tip of the root.

Occlusial X-rays are not used as routinely as others are, but can provide valuable information. They can show the floor or roof of the mouth and can reveal issues with the jaw, abnormalities and tumors.

Panoramic (OPG) X-ray is a wide panoramic X-Ray image showing teeth and jaws. This sort of image is good for checking for all types of problems, but is not a good method for seeing tooth decay.

Tomograms show a particular layer of the mouth and blur other layers. It is useful for examining hard-to-see structures when nearby structures are blocking the view.


Dental X-Rays are extremely helpful and can diagnose many dental problems very early, which results in simpler treatment and less cost. Here are some of the many conditions that X-Rays can identify or reveal:

  • Areas of decay that are invisible with an oral exam, especially decay between teeth
  • Decay beneath an existing filling
  • Bone levels around your teeth and bone loss that accompanies gum disease
  • Changes in the root canal or in the bone from infection
  • Abscess (infection at the root of a tooth)
  • Tartar below the gum line
  • Abnormalities, such as some types of tumors or cysts

In children, the X-rays are used to monitor and prevent decay, determine the rate of primary teeth loss, measure the space in the mouth to assess if it can fit all incoming teeth, and check for the growth of wisdom teeth.

How Safe Are They

Since the X-ray radiation may lead to DNA damage, which can cause diseases such as cancer, it is important to prepare properly for the procedure and protect your body from unnecessary radiation. While you are sitting upright in a chair, your dentist will cover your stomach and chest with a lead apron. He may also apply a lead thyroid collar, especially if you have thyroid problems or if you are pregnant, or a woman of childbearing age. If you keep your dentist updated as to your oral health habits and changes to your teeth, you can minimize repeat or unnecessary x-rays.

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