Understanding Dental X-Rays

Dental X-rays are an essential part of any oral care plan. They are quite common - anyone who has ever visited a dental professional has probably had them taken at some point - and consequently, it is helpful to understand a little more about them.

The Dental X-Ray Process

These X-rays are typically performed in the dental surgery. First, a dental professional will cover you with a heavy lead apron to protect your body from the radiation. Next, the dental professional who is licensed to take dental x-rays will insert a small apparatus, made of plastic, into your mouth and ask you to bite down on it - this holds the X-ray film in place. Then an X-ray picture of the targeted area will be taken. This process is pain-free and will be repeated until images have been obtained for your entire mouth.

Why are These X-Rays Taken?

The main purpose of having an X-ray performed is for preventive dental care. This procedure can aid in highlighting a number of dental issues, including bone destruction, dental injuries and tooth decay. In addition to its preventive care purposes, an X-ray is also a helpful tool for planning a course of treatment for patients who are having restorative care, dental implants placed or other cosmetic care.

Common Types of X-Rays Performed

There are a number of X-rays a dental professional can order. The type of X-ray needed will depend greatly on the type of care the patient needs to receive. Here are some of the most common types of X-rays performed.

  • Periapical: Provides a view of the entire tooth, from the crown to the bone that helps to support the tooth.
  • Bitewing: Offers a visual of both the lower and upper posterior teeth. This X-ray can also assist in showing the dentist how these teeth touch one another and if there is any dental decay between the teeth.
  • Panoramic: Shows a view of the teeth, jaws, nasal area, sinuses and jaw joints and is taken when a patient may need orthodontic treatment, to assess wisdom or other impacted teeth, or for general screening purposes.
  • Occlusal: Offers a clear view of the mouth from a horizontal perspective to assist, for example, in finding any extra teeth or teeth that have not yet broken through the gum line.