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Dental X-rays—also called radiographs—are a widely-used preventive and diagnostic tool that your dentist uses to locate damage and disease that isn’t visible to the naked eye. X-ray procedures are typically performed yearly during your annual cleaning appointments. Receiving regular x-rays helps your dentist monitor and track the progress of your oral health.

There are several types of dental x-rays, each capturing a slightly different view or angle of the affected area. The two most common forms of dental x-rays include intraoral—meaning the x-ray is filmed inside the mouth—and extraoral—meaning the x-ray is filmed outside the mouth. The most common form of digital radiography in dentistry is intraoral x-rays. Some examples of this technology include:

  • Bitewing: This type of x-ray offers a visual of both the lower and upper teeth. They are used to help you dentist locate decay between teeth.
  • Occlusal: These x-rays create a clear view of the floor of the mouth, which shows your dentist the bite of the upper and lower jaw.
  • Periapical: This detailed x-ray provides a view of the entire tooth, from the crown to the bone that supports it.
  • Panoramic: Showing an image of the teeth, jaws, nasal area, sinuses and joints, this type of x-ray is one of the most advanced imaging options available.

These x-rays are typically performed in the office of a dentist or dental specialist. Special precautions are taken—such as wearing a lead-vest to protect against low-levels of radiation—and your entire procedure is monitored by a dental professional.