Dental X-rays are used to take diagnostic images of your teeth and jawbones and are used by a dentist in order to evaluate your oral health status. These X-rays utilize low levels of radiation which make them safe for children, adults, and even pregnant patients. They will help your dentist to identify any problems, such as tooth decay, cavities and impacted teeth. Taking an X-ray at a dentist appointment may seem complex, but they are very helpful and just as important as regular teeth cleaning.

Why Do Dentists Use X-rays?

Dentists typically take X-rays of teeth yearly. If your dentist is tracking the progress of a dental problem or treatment, they may take them more often. Some factors that can affect how often you get dental X-rays may include your age, current oral health, history of gum disease and if you have any symptoms of oral disease. When you’re a new patient, your dentist will probably have you undergo dental X-rays to get a clear picture of your dental health.

Children sometimes need to have dental X-rays performed more often than adults because the progress of their adult teeth needs monitoring, like determining if adult teeth are growing in behind baby teeth.

X-rays allow dentists to:

  • Find cavities
  • Look at the roots of teeth
  • Observe the bony area around teeth
  • Check for gum disease
  • See the status of developing teeth
  • Monitor tooth health

Common Types of X-Rays

There are several types of dental X-rays, each one captures slightly different views of your mouth. X-rays are divided into two main categories, intraoral and extraoral. The most common are intraoral X-rays, which are taken inside the mouth. An extraoral X-ray is taken outside of the mouth. The most common kind of intraoral X-rays include: 

Bite-wing X-rays

Bite-wing X-rays show the dentist how these teeth touch one another and helps to determine if decay is present between teeth.

Periapical X-rays

Periapical X-rays show the dentist the whole tooth, from the crown to the bone that helps to support the tooth. They are used to find dental problems below the gumline or in the jaw.

Occlusal X-rays

Occlusal X-rays show the dentist the roof or floor of the mouth and are mostly used by pediatric dentists to find children’s teeth that have not yet broken through the gums. 

Panoramic X-rays

Panoramic X-rays are used to take images of your entire mouth area so the dentist can check your wisdom teeth, plan for dental implants, or investigate jaw problems

There are many types of dental x-rays and reasons to have them done. 

Who Performs X-rays?

As part of your comprehensive oral examination your dentist may use x-rays to help assess your oral health. Most X-rays are performed in the office by a dentist or dental assistant. This process is pain-free and will be repeated until the necessary images have been obtained. To find a dental office near you, visit our locations page.