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Dental X-Rays: Are They Really Necessary?


Part of your care at our dental office typically involves capturing routine x-ray images of your teeth and mouth for diagnostic purposes. Dental x-rays are extremely significant in the diagnostic process for your dental care.

Dental x-rays capture an image of the teeth, bones, and soft structure within your mouth. By viewing this image, our dental team can:

  • Identify cavities not visible by looking in your mouth (such as between your teeth)
  • Show any bone loss that may be occurring under the gum line
  • Identify any cysts, growths, or abscesses within your mouth
  • Accurately plan treatments for problem areas (such as root canals, large cavities, etc.)

What to Expect

Dental x-rays use a very small amount of radiation to capture their images, but is small enough to merit their use as the benefit is far greater than any potential radiation risk. During the procedure, every precaution is taken. You will be covered with a lead apron to shield your body.

In preparation for the X-Ray, one of our dental technicians will have you bite down on a piece of cardboard or plastic that holds film near the targeted areas or teeth. He/she will then align equipment to capture the image correctly and at the right angle.

Once the film and equipment is in place, our dental technician will step outside or behind a protective shield to take the image.

X-Rays are not painful and only take seconds to capture. Especially with bitewing images, some patients may experience a gag reflex due to the film placement in the mouth. It can be helpful to breathe deeply and focus on something other than the x-ray for these few uncomfortable seconds.

Types of Dental X-Ray Images

There are several types of images that your dentist may capture:

  • Bitewing X-Rays: Images of the back teeth (upper and lower) in one single image
  • Occlusal X-Rays: Images of the floor or roof of the mouth
  • Panoramic X-Rays: A “panoramic” view of the jaw line, teeth, sinuses, and nasal area.
  • Periapical X-Rays: Images that show the entire tooth from the bones to the root to the tip.

Typically, bitewing images are taken every 2-3 years (for adults). If patients are at high risk for developing cavities or are under 18, these could be captured as often as every 6 months.

X-Ray images are an important part of dental care and help us diagnose as well as treat many dental issues as early as possible. The earlier any decay or other issue is identified, the less costly and invasive the treatment.

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