Dental X-Ray(Radiography); Uses, Procedure, Safety

Our body is exposed to natural radiation from the sun everyday. If you had four small dental x-rays taken, the radiation would be less than one day of natural background radiation you would receive on average depending where you are on the planet. Similarly, these x-rays would result in about the same amount of radiation exposure you might get from an airplane flight lasting only about two hours. On top of that we shield  your body with proper protective shields which are placed on your chest and thyroid  when x-rays are taken. The fact is that in all of medicine, dental x-rays produce one of the lowest exposures to radiation.

We treat our patients holistically, which means We treat you as a whole person. Each cell of our body affects every other cell in the body. Because of this, I know that it is critical to help every cell in the body to survive and thrive. To help me know what I need to know as a holistic dentist , I must be able to look deeply enough to see what is happening inside the bone and inside the teeth. That often will require me to take necessary x-rays to see what I can not clinically . 

 X-rays are just energy in the form of waves, identical to visible light. In fact, the only difference between light and x-rays is that light can not penetrate through your body and x-rays do. 

Dental X-rays (radiographs) are images of your teeth that your dentist uses to evaluate your oral health. These X-rays are used with low levels of radiation to capture images of the interior of your teeth and gums. This can help your dentist to identify problems, like cavities, tooth decay, and impacted teeth. Dental X-rays may seem complex, but they’re actually very common tools that are just as important as your teeth cleanings.
Structures that are dense (such as silver fillings or metal restoration) will block most of the light energy from the x-ray. This makes them appear white in the image. Structures that contain air will be black and teeth, tissue, and fluid will appear as shades of gray.

Types of Dental X-rays

There are two main types of dental x-rays: intraoral (the x-ray film is inside the mouth) and extraoral (the x-ray film is outside the mouth).

Intraoral x-rays

Intraoral x-rays are the most common type of x-ray. There are several types of intraoral x-rays. Each shows different aspects of teeth.

Bite-wing x-rays

Bite-wing x-rays show details of the upper and lower teeth in one area of the mouth. Each bite-wing shows a tooth from its crown (the exposed surface) to the level of the supporting bone. Bite-wing x-rays detect decay between teeth and changes in the thickness of bone caused by gum disease. Bite wing x-rays can also help determine the proper fit of a crown (a cap that completely encircles a tooth) or other restorations (eg, bridges). It can also see any wear or breakdown of dental fillings.

Periapical x-rays

Periapical x-rays show the whole tooth — from the crown, to beyond the root where the tooth attaches into the jaw. Each periapical x-ray shows all teeth in one portion of either the upper or lower jaw. Periapical x-rays detect any unusual changes in the root and surrounding bone structures.

Occlusal x-rays

Occlusal x-rays track the development and placement of an entire arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

Extraoral x-rays

Extraoral x-rays are used to detect dental problems in the jaw and skull. There are several types of extraoral x-rays.

Panoramic x-rays

It shows the entire mouth area — all the teeth in both the upper and lower jaws — on a single x-ray. This x-ray detects the position of fully emerged as well as emerging teeth, can see impacted teeth, and help diagnosis tumors.


It shows a particular layer or “slice” of the mouth and blur out other layers. This x-ray examines structures that are difficult to clearly see because other nearby structures are blocking the view.

Cephalometric projections

It shows an entire side of the head. This x-ray looks at the teeth in relation to the jaw and profile of the individual. Orthodontists use this x-ray to develop each patient’s specific teeth realignment approach.
Another test that uses x-rays is called a sialogram. This test uses a dye, which is injected into the salivary glands so they can be seen on x-ray film (Salivary glands are a soft tissue that would not be seen with an x-ray.) Dentists might order this test to look for salivary gland problems, such as blockages, or Sjogren’s syndrome (a disorder with symptoms including dry mouth and eyes; this disorder can play a role in tooth decay).

Dental computed tomography (CT)

It is a type of imaging that looks at interior structures in 3-D (three dimensions). This type of imaging is used to find problems in the bones of the face such as cysts, tumors, and fractures.

Cone Beam CT

It is a type of x-ray that creates 3-D images of dental structures, soft tissue, nerves, and bone. It helps guide tooth implant placement and evaluates cysts and tumors in the mouth and face. It also can detect problems in the gums, roots of teeth, and jaws. Cone beam CT is similar to regular dental CT in some ways. They both produce accurate and high quality images. However, the way images are taken is different. The cone-beam CT machine rotates around the patient’s head, capturing all data in one single rotation. The traditional CT scan collects “flat slices” as the machine makes several revolutions around the patient’s head. This method also exposes patients to higher level of radiation. A unique advantage of cone beam CT is that it can be used in a dentist’s office. Dental computed CT equipment is only available in hospitals or imaging centers.

Digital imaging

It is a 2-D type of dental imaging that allows images to be sent directly to a computer. The images can be viewed on screen, stored, or printed out in a matter of seconds. Digital imaging has several other advantages compared with traditional x-rays. The image taken of a tooth, for example, can be enhanced and enlarged. This makes it easier for your dentist to see the tiniest changes that can’t be seen in an oral exam. Also, if necessary, images can be sent electronically to another dentist or specialist for a second opinion or to a new dentist (eg, if you move). Digital imaging also uses less radiation than x-rays.

MRI imaging

It is an imaging method that takes a 3-D view of the oral cavity including jaw and teeth. (This is ideal for soft tissue evaluation.)

Why dental X-rays are performed

Dental X-rays are typically performed yearly. They can happen more often if your dentist is tracking the progress of a dental problem or treatment.
Factors affecting how often you get dental X-rays may include:
• your age
• your current oral health
• any symptoms of oral disease
• a history of gum disease (gingivitis) or tooth decay
If you’re a new patient, you’ll probably undergo dental X-rays so that your new dentist can get a clear picture of your dental health. This is especially important if you don’t have any X-rays from your previous dentist.
X-rays can show decay that may not be seen directly in the mouth: for example, under a filling, or between the teeth. They can show whether you have an infection in the root of your tooth and how severe the infection is.
Children may need to have dental X-rays more often than adults because their dentists might need to monitor the growth of their adult teeth. This is important because it can help the dentist determine if baby teeth need to be pulled to prevent complications, such as adult teeth growing in behind baby teeth.

Preparing for dental X-rays

Dental X-rays require no special preparation. The only thing you’ll want to do is brush your teeth before your appointment. That creates a more hygienic environment for those working inside your mouth. X-rays are usually done before cleanings.
At the dentist’s office, you’ll sit in a chair with a lead vest across your chest and lap. The X-ray machine is positioned alongside your head to record images of your mouth. Some dental practices have a separate room for X-rays, while others perform them in the same room as cleanings and other procedures.

How Dental X-Rays Work

When the X-rays pass through the mouth, the teeth and bones absorb more of the ray than the gums and soft tissues, so the teeth appear lighter on the final X-ray image (called a radiograph). Areas of tooth decay and infection look darker because they don’t absorb as much of the X-ray.

After dental X-rays

When the images are ready — instantly in the case of digital X-rays — your dentist will review them and check for abnormalities. If a dental hygienist is cleaning your teeth, the dentist may go over the results of the X-rays with you after your cleaning is done. The exception is if the hygienist discovers any significant problems during the X-rays.


If your dentist finds problems, such as cavities or tooth decay, they’ll discuss your treatment options. If your dentist finds no problems, keep up the good work!

Normal Results

Normal x-rays show a normal number, structure, and position of the teeth and jaw bones. There are no cavities or other problems.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Dental x-rays may be used to identify the following:
• The number, size, and position of teeth
• Partially or fully impacted teeth
• The presence and severity of tooth decay (called cavities or dental caries)
• Bone damage (such as from gum disease called periodontitis)
• Abscessed teeth
• Fractured jaw
• Problems in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together (malocclusion)
• Other abnormalities of the teeth and jaw bones


How the Test will Feel?

The x-ray itself causes no discomfort. Biting on the piece of film makes some people gag. Slow, deep breathing through the nose usually relieves this feeling. Both CBCT and cephalometric x-ray do not require any biting pieces.

How often should I have x-rays?

If you are a new patient, unless you have had dental x-rays very recently, the dental team will probably suggest having x-rays. This helps them assess the condition of your mouth and to check for any hidden problems. After that, x-rays may be recommended every 6 to 24 months depending on the person, their history of decay, their age and the condition of their mouth.

Are x-rays dangerous?

The amount of radiation received from a dental x-ray is extremely small. We get more radiation from natural sources, including minerals in the soil, and from our general environment. With modern techniques and equipment, risks are kept as small as possible. However, your dental team will always take care to use x-rays only when they need to.

Dental X-Ray While Pregnant

Although the amount of radiation in dental X-rays is quite low and the procedure is safe, pregnant women should refrain from dental X-rays unless they are necessary. But because pregnant women are at increased risk for gum disease, it’s important not to ignore a potentially serious dental problem due to fears about radiation exposure from X-rays. If you are pregnant and you require dental X-rays, your dental professional will have you wear a lead apron and a lead thyroid collar to protect vulnerable areas. In fact, children and women of childbearing age should wear protective lead coverings when getting dental X-rays. But there is no added risk associated with dental X-rays for breastfeeding women or women who are trying to become pregnant.

Why does the dentist leave the room during an x-ray?

The dental team might take hundreds of x-rays every week. Staff limit the amount of radiation they receive by moving away from the x-ray beam. However, the risk to patients from one or two routine x-rays is tiny.
Staff check how much radiation they are exposed to by wearing a small badge during working hours. This is sent off to be checked at regular intervals.