Dental X-rays

Overview A dental X-Ray is simply a picture or image of the tooth, including the bones and tissues surrounding the tooth. These X-ray pictures are used by dentists to locate problems in the mouth, teeth and jaw. Dental X-rays can reveal conditions like cavities which may not be visible during a general oral examination. These also allow a dentist to monitor the progress of treatment.

Types of dental X-rays

Bitewing X-rays
These reveal the upper and lower teeth at the back of the mouth. They are used when your dentist needs to look for decay in between the teeth. These X-Rays can also reveal the alignment of the upper and lower teeth, and alert the dentist to infections or gum disease.

Periapical X-rays
These reveal the entire tooth, and are used to locate problems like dental abscesses, impacted teeth or alterations in the bone.

Occlusal X-rays
These reveal the floor of the mouth, or the roof. They can be used to locate jaw fractures, dental abscesses or cysts. In conditions where the teeth have not yet emerged or in case of a cleft palate, these X-rays can be used to confirm the condition.

Panoramic X-rays
These give the dentist a complete view of the mouth, including the teeth, jaws, nasal areas and TMJ area. They can be used to locate alterations in the bone structure, tumours, dental fractures and impacted teeth.

Digital X-rays
This is a new technology in which a sensor unit takes pictures of the teeth, and sends it to your computer to be recorded.

Benefits of dental X-rays

  • A dental X-ray can help locate problems like dental injuries, cavities and damage to the bones. With X-rays, these problems can be located early on, before they deteriorate.
  • They can find dental abscesses, tumors and cysts.
  • They can locate teeth that are not positioned properly, or have not been able to emerge.
  • They can be used to look for the position of permanent teeth in children who still have their baby teeth.
  • Your dentist will use X-rays to plan for major treatment, like root canal treatment, dental implants and complicated tooth extraction procedures.
  • He may also use X-rays to plan orthodontic treatment.

You will have to rinse your mouth before the X-ray is taken. 
First, you will be covered with a heavy lead apron to protect your body from the radiation generated by the procedure. You will be made to bite on a piece of cardboard which holds the X-ray film. This will be done several times in order to obtain X-rays of all the teeth. After the X-ray, you may have to rinse your mouth again.

This procedure takes only a few minutes, and does not involve any pain.

Risk factors
Dental X-rays use radiation, but the amount is too low for it to be a major risk factor. However, pregnant women should avoid having dental X-rays until after the delivery, although there is no poof that an X-ray can harm the foetus.
If the possibility of radiation exposure worries you, discuss the need for the X-ray with your dentist.