All about x-rays

X-rays explained

Dental x-rays are a valuable part of dental treatment because they can detect damage to teeth and gums not visible during a routine checkup.

X-rays can show the condition of your teeth, their roots, your jaw placement and the overall composition of your facial bones. X-rays can help your dentist determine the presence or degree of gum disease, cavities, abscesses and many abnormal growths, such as cysts and tumors. X-rays also can show the exact location of impacted teeth and teeth that have not yet fully developed.

X-ray Q&A

Do all patients have x-rays taken every six months?

X-ray schedules are customized to fit your individual needs. If you are a new patient, your dentist will typically take x-rays to evaluate your oral health and track it during future visits, making sure that your teeth and gums stay healthy. If you have changed dentists and recently had x-rays taken, you can ask to have them sent to the new dentist so he or she is up-to-date on your oral health.

What kind of x-rays does my dentist usually take?

The most common type of x-rays dentists take are known as bitewing x-rays. These require patients to hold or bite down on a piece of plastic with x-ray film in the center. Bitewing x-rays typically determine the presence of decay in between teeth – one of the most common areas where decay-causing bacteria reside.

Periapical x-rays are another common type of dental x-ray, which gives the dentist an image of the entire tooth, including the roots. With periapical x-rays, dentists evaluate a particular tooth's root structure and bone level, and also can detect cysts and abscesses.

My dentist has ordered a “panoramic radiograph.” What is that?

A panoramic x-ray, also called radiograph, allows your dentist to see your whole mouth, including your upper and lower teeth and parts of your jaw, in a single image. This gives him or her a clear image of any issues that may be harder to see up close. It can help predict children’s tooth development and may show complications with a teenager’s wisdom teeth before they erupt.

Why might I need more than one type of x-ray?

Different types of x-rays give your dentist an overview of different parts of your mouth. Panoramic x-rays give your dentist a general comprehensive view of your entire mouth on a single film, while bitewing or periapical x-rays show a detailed image of a smaller area, revealing decay or cavities between teeth. If your dentist needs both these vantage points to assess a problem, he or she will likely conduct multiple x-rays.

Should I be concerned about exposure to radiation?

All health care providers are sensitive to patients' concerns about radiation. Your dentist has been trained to prescribe x-rays only when they are appropriate, and to tailor their frequency to your individual needs. By using state-of-the-art technology and staying knowledgeable about recent advances, your dentist knows which techniques, procedures and x-ray films can minimize your exposure to radiation.1

Please note that x-ray coverage under Delta Dental plans is subject to limitations and exclusions. Check your Evidence of Coverage for specifics regarding your plan’s coverage for x-rays.

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.
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