What are dental X-rays and why are they needed?

Dental x-rays, also called radiographs, are basically two-dimensional images that show the tooth anatomy and bone in your mouth.  Dental X-rays are either intraoral (inside the mouth) or extraoral (outside the mouth). Some of the most common radiographs taken are:

  • Bitewings

Bitewings are a type of intraoral images. They show the crowns of both the upper and lower posterior teeth on the same image.  They are most often taken to check for cavities between the teeth.

  • Periapical

These are also intraoral images. They focus on the entire tooth and show it all the way from the crown to the tip of the root. They are often used to check for the presence of an abscess.

  • Panoramic

Panoramic radiographs are extraoral.  They show the entire oral cavity, including the teeth, jawbones and joints, and sinus areas.  They are typically taken to asses tooth development, wisdom teeth, and for orthodontic purposes.

Are digital x-rays better?

With the advancement in technology, digital x-rays are becoming more common. Digital radiography uses an X-ray sensor instead of film to produce the image. Digital X-rays require less radiation exposure (approximately 50-80% less than film).  They are faster since they can show the image almost instantly on a screen.  The image can be enhanced and transferred easily if needed as well.

 Are dental x-rays safe?

Dental X-rays are considered very safe.  Digital dental x-rays have a very low dose of radiation.  According to the American Dental Association (ADA) 4 digital bitewings result in 0.005 mSv of radiation exposure. To put this into perspective, a person is exposed to approximately 0.01 mSv during a 2.5-hour airplane flight.  To further reduce your exposure, a lead apron is used while the x-rays are taken to block scatter radiation.

 What do they show?

Like we said before, dental x-rays are a diagnostic tool and help the dentist to make a proper diagnosis.  Some of the things they evaluate include the following:

  • existence and extent of potential decay, especially in-between the teeth or under existing restorations
  • condition of present dental work
  • check tooth and jaw development
  • assess root health (presence of infection)
  • check bone health
  • impacted teeth
  • joint health
  • fractures
  • presence of cysts and tumours

Basically, with the help of x-rays the dentist will be able to see things that they can’t with a visual examination.  Without dental x-rays the dentist cannot make an accurate diagnosis and complete treatment plan.

How often should you have dental X-rays taken?

There is no easy answer to this question as it depends on many different factors.  Some of these include the present state of your oral health and your general health history, your age, presenting complaints, and risk factors for various conditions.  Radiographs should be taken on a case-by-case basis.  People who are more at risk of dental problems and may require dental x-rays more often include:

  • Adults with a lot of present dental work
  • Smokers
  • People who have gum disease
  • People with dry mouth
  • Children

At Fairway Dental Urgent Care Clinic, we only use digital radiography as we believe it is safer for our clients and our staff. We care about your oral health and strive to provide you with the best possible treatment and care.  If you have any dental concerns, please contact us.

DISCLAIMER: The advice offered is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. It is no way to offer a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation.  Any advice provided is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.