Why do I need dental X-ray?

Dental radiographs are images of your teeth that the dentist uses to check your oral health. These x-rays with low radiation are used to record internal images of teeth and gums. X-rays can help the dentist identify problems such as cavities, tooth decay, infection, and damaged teeth.

Keep up with StrAIberry to know about the role of x-rays in dentistry.


What is the use of dental radiography?

Dental radiography is used in many cases, and dentists check dental problems with the help of dental x-rays. A dentist cannot diagnose the severity of tooth decay without radiographs or dental imaging. When x-rays are taken and what type of x-rays the dentist recommends differs from one person to another. The dentist’s responsibility is to thoroughly examine and ensure that dental problems are detected early to minimize damage to tooth and gum tissue, and x-rays are the means of problem diagnosis.

It also depends on the condition of the patient’s mouth, what degree of problems can be seen in your mouth and what part of your mouth the dentist wants to see. One of the reasons the dentist may suggest you do a dental x-ray is to detect early caries between teeth that may be hidden from the dentist’s view during clinical examinations. Sometimes, the tooth looks healthy, but the dentist can detect cavities using radiographs. Also, diagnosing the condition of the bone supporting the tooth, the root of the tooth, and the hidden teeth are among the cases that require radiography of the tooth.


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What types of problems do x-rays help diagnose?

X-rays help the dentist diagnose problems with your teeth and jaw. In adults, x-rays show:

  • Jaw bone loss
  • Cysts and some types of tumors
  • Decay under filled teeth
  • Changes in the bone or root canal due to infection
  • An abscess (infection in the root of the tooth or between the gum and the tooth)
  • Decay, especially in tiny areas between teeth
  • Condition and position of teeth to help prepare for dental implants, braces, dentures, or other dental procedures


In children, x-rays can be influential in determining the following:

  • Wisdom tooth growth rate
  • The progress of caries
  • The tooth is buried (cannot come out of the gum)


Dental radiography methods

In general, radiography in dentistry is divided into two categories: intraoral and extraoral radiography. In intraoral radiography, the x-ray film is inside the mouth; in extraoral radiography, the x-ray film is outside the mouth.


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Intraoral radiography

Intraoral radiographs are the most common type. In this method, dentists can find high levels of detail. Applications of this radiography include:

  • Caries diagnosis
  • Viewing the root of the tooth
  • Examining the health of the bone area around the tooth
  • Observing the condition of growing teeth


Types of intraoral radiography

  1. Bitewing radiograph

This radiograph is used to show the connection of the teeth in a position that creates the best conditions for the dentist to detect caries. It is named “Bite Wing” because the patient bites the wing-like device that keeps the radiography sensor in place while taking an x-ray. Dentists use this radiography to diagnose decay at the back of teeth and the changes in bone thickness resulting from gum disease. Also, this type of radiography can show any wear or corrosion in the filling of the teeth.


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  1. Periapical radiography

This type of radiography shows the problems around the roots of the teeth and is very useful in treatment with N2. This radiograph shows the height of each tooth from the crown to the root and the root structure. This radiograph shows abnormal changes in the roots and bones.


  1. Occlusal radiograph

This radiograph shows the occlusal surface of the teeth and is larger than the rest of the normal radiographs. This method tracks the development and placement of an entire arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.


Extraoral radiography

In these radiographs, observed details are less than in intraoral radiographs and focus more on the jaws and skull.


Types of extraoral radiography:

  • Panoramic radiography

In this type of radiography, an image of the entire mouth is taken, including all the upper and lower teeth. This radiograph can help discover hidden teeth and diagnose tumors and cysts.


  • Cephalometry

This radiography is taken from one side of the head to show the relationship between the teeth and jaws. Orthodontists use cephalometric prediction to determine the best kind of orthodontic treatment according to the specific position of the patient’s teeth.


  • Cone-beam computerized tomography (CBCT)

With this type of radiography, three-dimensional images of dental structures, soft tissue, nerves, and bone are taken. This radiography is mainly used to select and place dental implants; it also helps diagnose periodontal problems, teeth roots, jaws, cysts and tumors, and fractures in the mouth and face.


  • Dental CT scan (CT)

This type of radiography must be done in a radiology office or hospital, where the patient is lying down, and the image is taken with a few rotations around the patient’s head using “flat layers” device. Dental CT provides valuable information for dental implants. CT has a higher radiation dose than CBCT but shows the soft tissue better than CBCT.


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  • Tomography

It shows a specific mouth section and blurs the rest. This radiography is used to examine parts that are difficult to see or are closed by other areas.


  • Sialography

In this method, a type of dye is injected into the salivary glands so they can be seen in the X-ray sensor (salivary glands alone cannot be seen by X-ray). This radiography is used for problems such as obstruction or Sjogren’s syndrome. (Sjogren’s syndrome is a disorder with symptoms such as dry mouth and eyes, which can play an essential role in tooth decay)


Radiation hazards in dental radiography

The question for many patients is whether the radiation used in dental photographs is harmful. The amount of radiation emitted from X-rays is minimal. The presence of x-ray machines that limit the beam to a small area, high-speed x-rays, lead aprons, and federal laws require the accuracy and safety of x-ray machines do not let any harm to the patient.

We should know that walking under the sun, air travel, living next to volcanic mountains, living at high altitudes, cosmic rays around us, low-energy lamps used in homes, etc., can expose us to ionizing radiation! All these rays are harmful but do not seriously threaten our health.


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Dental radiography during pregnancy

Radiography up to four units per visit is safe for pregnant women. Still, considering that the fetus is in a susceptible stage of its development in the first trimester of pregnancy, radiography should be avoided as much as possible in this period, except in cases where the dentist deems it necessary to perform radiography. In these cases, under obstetrician and gynecologist care, the dentist can protect the fetus from radiation by using a two-layer lead apron.


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