Dental X-Rays: What You Need to Know

Dentist man holding up X-ray of teeth in front of his mouth

Dental X-rays help dentists see things they cannot through normal visual examination. There are 2 types of dental X-rays available: standard X-rays and digital radiography.

 

Here’s what you need to know about dental X-rays and your dental health.

 

First of All, Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Many people have concerns over the radiation they’re exposed to during X-rays. Fortunately, dental X-rays expose you to only a very small dose of radiation, and an even smaller amount if the dentist uses digital X-rays.

 

The dental hygienist will provide you with a protective apron or covering to guard the rest of your body.

 

If you are concerned about the X-rays, talk to the dentist about your options.

 

Protective apron for dental patients worn during dental X-rays

 

How Dental X-Rays Help

There are many different things an X-ray shows dentists, including:

  • Teeth
  • Bones
  • Mouth
  • Jaw

 

This overall picture of your mouth allows dentists to check for:

  • Cavities
  • Hidden dental structures, like wisdom teeth
  • Any bone loss (that cannot be seen during the visual exam)
  • Tooth misalignment
  • Any signs of infection
  • Damage to teeth
  • Growth and development

 

Types of Dental X-Rays

Dental X-rays are divided into two categories: intraoral X-rays (where the film is inside the mouth) and extraoral X-rays (where the film is outside the mouth).

 

Intraoral X-rays are the most common dental X-rays used.

 

Dental X-ray of 4 teeth being held with tweezers

They provide a high level of detail, generally allowing dentists to examine your teeth for any decay. These include:

  • Periapical – Provides a picture of the entire tooth, from the jaw bone to the crown; this type examines only one or two teeth at a time and is used to evaluate the bone and root
  • Bite-Wing – Shows how teeth touch one another and reveals if decay is present in between back teeth; this is used to examine your bite and check for decay
  • Occlusal – Shows the bite of the upper or lower jaw; this is used for examining children’s baby and permanent teeth

 

A common type of extraoral X-ray is the panoramic X-ray.


Dental panoramic X-ray machine

This type of X-ray provides an overall picture of your mouth, including the teeth, the upper and lower jaws, the jaw joints (TMJ), the nasal area, and the sinuses.

 

This X-ray is used to check for impacted teeth, bone abnormalities, growths, infections, and fractures.

 

Digital Radiography

As an alternative to standard X-rays, dentists are using digital radiography. Much like standard intraoral X-rays, intraoral radiography places the sensor inside your mouth. However, the image almost immediately appears on the screen.


Dentist man helping dentist woman take a digital dental X-ray of woman's teeth

This cuts down on wait time, minimizes the amount of radiation you’re exposed to, and provides a better picture. The better picture allows the dentist to zoom in and out and manipulate colors, brightness, and contrast; this enables the dentist to more accurately spot small cavities.

 

Looking for Cavities

Dental X-rays enable dentists to more accurately identify cavities. When the dentist shows you your X-rays, here’s what to look for.

 

Enamel, the outer layer of your tooth, appears the lightest on the X-ray because it is the layer of your tooth with the highest mineral content. Examining the pictures of your teeth, the dentist looks for darkened areas on your teeth. The dark area indicates demineralization, also known as tooth decay.


Dental X-ray of person's mouth

For more information or to schedule a dental appointment, contact Greenspoint Dental in Houston, Texas. We are dedicated to providing you and your loved ones with the best dental care.