Dental X-Ray

X-rays show images of the teeth and bones and help detect problems before they get serious or even before symptoms appear to the patient.

Dentists use X-rays to detect dental problems such as cavities, gum (periodontal) disease, impacted teeth and other dental problems that may not be seen during an oral examination. The X-rays show images of the teeth and bones and help detect problems before they get serious or even before symptoms appear to the patient.


Common Types of X-Rays

There are several types of dental X-rays, each with a different purpose. Among the most common are: bitewing, periapical, full-mouth series and panoramic.

 Bitewing X-rays:

Can detect decay between teeth.

Help view the bone levels around the teeth.

Are generally taken once a year, but may be taken less often if you have a history of good dental health.

Periapical X-rays:

Show the roots of teeth and the surrounding bone.

Typically show more of the whole tooth (above and below the gums) and jawbone than bitewing X-rays.

Are helpful in diagnosing specific problems such as abscesses around the tooth’s root.

Full-Mouth Series:

Is a group of several periapical and bitewing X-rays showing all of the teeth and supporting bone.

Helps find complex dental problems in patients with a history of extensive dental treatment.

Is scheduled every three to five years, depending on your dental health and your risk level for problems such as gum disease.

Panormic X-rays:

Show the complete upper and lower jaws and teeth on a single X-ray.

Are used to see developing teeth in children.

Can determine whether orthodontic work (braces) needs to be done.

Can show injuries to the jaw.

Are recommended for patients who do not have any natural teeth.

Are very commonly taken during an initial visit to a new dentist.

The Safety of X-Rays

High-speed film, protective shields and filters installed on X-ray machines, and the use of lead-lined aprons and collars reduce the risk of unnecessary radiation to patients and dental office staff members. Additionally, electronic controls and periodic inspections of X-ray equipment increase safety. You should request the use of the apron and collar if they are not offered when your X-rays are taken.

 Using X-Rays From a Former Dentist

If you are changing dentists, be sure your former dentist includes your most recent X-rays with the file being sent to your new dentist. This will help your new dentist evaluate your dental health and reduce the need and cost for new or additional X-rays.

X-Rays and Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, you want to make sure your dentist knows this, and he or she will generally avoid taking X-rays until after your baby is born. If X-rays are necessary to diagnose a serious dental problem, they may be taken with the use of lead aprons and collars as safety shields. Be sure to discuss this thoroughly with your dentist.