Dental X-Rays Purpose, Procedure, and Risks

July 04, 2023 4 min read

Dental X-Rays Purpose, Procedure, and Risks

What are Dental X-rays?

Dental radiographs, also known as X-rays and show pictures of your teeth that dentists can use to monitor the health of your mouth. Low levels of radiation create an image of the patient's teeth and gums. X-rays enable dentists to determine problems or issues, such as tooth decay and much more. 

X-rays can also tell whether there is bone loss or benign or malignant tumors. Although it can depend on the health and age that the individual is in, X-rays are typically taken every year. However, children might require more frequent X-rays to keep track of their growing adult teeth.


What is the Purpose of Dental X-rays?

Dental X-rays are a standard procedure that’s usually performed for one of the following reasons:

  • To detect and assess dental decay that may be hidden between teeth.
  • To identify decay or other issues beneath existing dental fillings.
  • To assist in diagnosing dental problems such as infections, abscesses, and gum disease.
  • To evaluate the alignment and positioning of teeth and jaws.
  • To monitor the growth and development of adult teeth in children.


What are the different types of dental X-rays?

Do you know What types of X-rays are used in dentistry? There are various types of dental X-rays that dentists use to obtain detailed images of the teeth, jaw, and surrounding structures. 

These X-rays can be categorized into two main types:

  • Intraoral
  • Extraoral

Intraoral X-rays involve placing the film or sensor inside the patient's mouth. They provide detailed images of specific areas of the mouth, focusing on individual teeth or sections.

There are three common types of intraoral X-rays:

  1. Bitewing X-rays:These X-rays capture the upper and lower teeth in a specific region of the mouth. Bitewing X-rays are helpful in identifying tooth decay between the teeth and detecting changes below the gum line. However, they may not display the roots of the teeth.
  2. Periapical X-rays:This type of X-ray displays the entire tooth, from the crown to the root tip. It helps dentists detect tooth decay, gum disease, bone loss, and other abnormalities affecting the tooth and surrounding bone.
  3. Occlusal X-rays:Occlusal X-rays reveal any issues in the floor or roof of the mouth. They are useful for diagnosing impacted or fractured teeth, evaluating the roots of front teeth, and identifying cysts, abscesses, or jaw fractures. Occlusal X-rays are commonly used in pediatric dentistry to assess developing teeth.

Extraoral X-rays, on the other hand, involve placing the film or sensor outside the patient's mouth. These X-rays provide an overview of the entire oral and facial structures.


Some common types of extra oral X-rays include:

Panoramic X-rays:Panoramic X-rays capture a wide view of the entire mouth, including the upper and lower teeth, jaw joints, nerves, sinuses, and supporting bone. Dentists use these X-rays to identify existing oral health issues and evaluate the overall condition of the mouth.

Cephalometric X-rays:Cephalometric X-rays capture the side view of the patient's head. They help dentists assess the position of the teeth in relation to the jaw. Orthodontists often utilize cephalometric X-rays to plan and monitor orthodontic treatments.

Cone beam CT scan:This advanced imaging technique uses computed tomography (CT) to generate 3D X-ray images of the teeth, jaws, joints, nerves, and sinuses. Cone beam CT scans are highly detailed and useful for detecting tumors and facial fractures and assessing the dimensions and position of the jawbone for dental implant placement.

Discover More:What Is Dentophobia Dental Anxiety


Process of Taking Dental X-Rays

Taking dental X-rays is a routine procedure performed by dentists to assess the health of your teeth and gums. Here is a brief overview of the process:

  • No special preparation is needed for dental X-rays.
  • Brush your teeth before the appointment for a clean and hygienic environment.
  • X-rays are usually taken before scaling and deep cleaning during routine teeth cleaning.
  • Sit comfortably in the dental chair and wear a lead vest covering your chest and lap.
  • The dental radiography machine will be positioned to capture images of your mouth.
  • Intra-oral or extra-oral images will be taken based on the dentist's requirements.
  • The dentist will examine the images for any abnormalities or dental problems.
  • Treatment options will be discussed if cavities or other issues are found.


What are the benefits and risks of dental radiography?

Benefit: Detects Small Damages - Dental radiography enables dentists to identify small amounts of decay in hard-to-see areas, preventing the problems from escalating.

Risk: Causes Tumors To Develop - Exposure to radiation in dental radiography can potentially damage cells and lead to tumor development.

Benefit: Finds Bone Infections - Dental radiography can be used to detect infections in the jaw bones.

Risk: Causes Pregnancy Problems - Dental X-rays carry a small risk to developing fetuses, which is why caution is exercised when performing them on pregnant women.



What can dental X-rays detect?

Dental X-rays can detect a range of dental conditions and issues, including tooth decay, gum disease, infections, bone loss, impacted teeth, and oral tumors.

Who can take dental X-rays?

Dental X-rays are typically taken by qualified dental professionals, such as dentists, dental hygienists, or dental radiographers.

Your Heading


Healthy Teeth E-book