Understanding Dental X Rays: Types, Uses, and Safety Precautions

Dental X-rays stand as a cornerstone in modern dentistry, offering unparalleled insights into oral health. They are instrumental in diagnosing and treating dental issues that are not visible to the naked eye. This comprehensive guide delves into the various types of dental X-rays, emphasising the importance of lead-lined radiation shielding for safety and health.

What Exactly Are Dental X-Rays?

Dental X-rays are diagnostic tools that provide detailed images of the structures inside the mouth, including teeth, bones, and soft tissues. Using a minimal amount of radiation, these X-rays capture the condition of your oral health in ways that visual examination cannot. The X-ray machine directs radiation at the teeth and captures the resulting X-ray image either on traditional X-ray film or as a digital image.

Benefits of Dental X-Rays

The benefits of dental X-rays are significant. They are crucial in detecting oral health issues such as cavities, impacted teeth, and wisdom teeth problems early on. Dental X-rays also help in planning treatments for various conditions, ensuring that the dentist has a complete view of what’s happening inside the mouth.

Benefits of Dental X-Rays

What Are The 2 Main Types Of X-Rays in Dentistry?

1. Intraoral X-Rays

These are the most common type of dental X-rays taken. They provide a detailed view of the teeth, helping to find cavities, monitor teeth development, and check the health of the bone around the teeth.

2. Extraoral X-rays

Unlike intraoral X-rays, these are taken outside the mouth. They are used to view the larger areas of the jaw and skull, primarily for detecting impacted teeth, monitoring growth and development, and identifying potential problems between teeth and jaws.

Types of Intraoral X-Rays

Bitewing X-rays

These X-rays are used to check for cavities between the teeth and to see how well the upper and lower teeth line up. They can also show bone loss when there is severe gum disease or a dental infection.

Periapical X-rays

These show the entire tooth, from the crown to beyond the root where the tooth attaches into the jaw. Each periapical X-ray shows this full tooth dimension, providing information on the actual state of the tooth and the surrounding bone structure.

Occlusal X-rays

Larger than most dental X-rays, occlusal X-rays show the roof or floor of the mouth and are used to track the development and placement of an entire arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

Types of Extraoral X-rays

Panoramic X-rays

These X-rays take images of the entire mouth area – all the teeth in both the upper and lower jaws – on a single X-ray. Panoramic X-ray machines rotate around the head, providing a comprehensive view, often used for planning treatments such as braces, implants, and extractions.

Cephalometric projections

These X-rays are unique in that they show an entire side of the head. They are used primarily by orthodontists to see how the teeth are situated in the jaw, helping them to develop their treatment plans.

Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT)

This advanced type of X-ray machine produces 3D images. Unlike a traditional X-ray, a CBCT can show multiple layers of your teeth and gums, providing a more detailed view.

Standard computed tomography (CT)

This type of X-ray is used when regular dental or facial X-rays are not sufficient. Dental CT can provide detailed images of bone and soft tissues, an invaluable tool in planning surgical procedures like tooth extractions and implant placements.

What is The Difference Between Traditional Dental X-Rays and Digital X-Rays?

The main difference lies in how the image is captured and processed. Traditional X-rays use film, while digital X-rays use a sensor to capture images. Digital X-rays expose patients to less radiation and provide higher quality images that can be viewed immediately.


How much radiation do you get from a dental X-ray and is that safe?

Dental X-rays expose patients to a very low level of radiation, which is generally considered safe. The use of lead-lined shielding and modern techniques further minimises the exposure.

What problems can dental X-rays detect?

Dental X-rays can detect a variety of problems, including cavities, tooth decay, impacted teeth, and bone loss due to gum disease.

How often do you need X-rays of your teeth?

The frequency of dental X-rays depends on the individual’s oral health needs. Some may need them every six months, while others with no recent dental or gum disease might only need them every couple of years.

How can dentists minimise radiation exposure of patients?

Dentists minimise radiation exposure by using lead-lined aprons and thyroid collars, using the lowest radiation setting possible for the necessary diagnostic quality, and limiting the number of X-rays taken.

To find out more about our X-ray protection products, download our eBook today.

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