Dental X-Rays: Your Questions, Our Answers

July 23, 2018

Let’s talk about x-rays. Sure you’ve had them at your dental visits, but have you ever asked your dentist why? X-rays are a useful tool with many benefits. Read on as we shed some light on commonly asked dental x-ray questions.

Why do dentists need x-rays?

Dentists perform x-rays to check for issues with the teeth, mouth and jaw. Problems can include tooth decay, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, bone damage within the jaw and injuries like broken roots. X-rays can find these problems early, possibly before symptoms are even present. Without x-rays, dentists can easily miss early stages of oral problems, including decay between the teeth.

What types of X-rays are there?

  • Bitewing x-rays: These x-rays are used during check-ups to look for tooth decay, bone loss and severe gum disease as they show the upper and lower teeth in one view.
  • Panoramic x-rays: Given occasionally, this type of x-ray gives a complete, broad view of the upper and lower jaw. Used to identify issues like bone abnormalities, cysts, infections, fractures and tumors, panoramic x-rays will include the jaw, teeth and sinuses.
  • Periapical x-rays: Checking for problems below the gum line, these x-rays uncover problems like impacted teeth, cysts, tumors and abscesses. A periapical x-ray will capture the entire tooth from the surface to below the root. These x-rays are usually performed during a patient’s first visit.
  • Occlusal x-rays: Larger than most x-rays, these images allow a clear view of the roof and floor of the mouth. They will help pin-point foreign objects, extra teeth, jaw fractures, cleft palate or growths.

Are dental x-rays safe?

Dental x-rays use minimal amounts of radiation; your Dental Select dentist will use an up-to-date, modern machine. As a precautionary measure, you will wear a lead apron when this is performed. If you are pregnant, inform your dentist prior to receiving any x-rays. You may choose to wait having x-rays until after birth.

How often do you need dental x-rays?

The need for x-rays is based on age, risk, and signs of disease or oral issues. Healthy patients with little cavity risk may have x-rays performed every year or two, while high risk patients may receive them more often (possibly every 6 months). The ADA recommends that dentists and patients discuss the need for x-rays together.