Dental X-rays and why they are necessary

Digital Dental X-rays

What is the purpose of dental x-rays?


Dental X-rays help dentists visualize diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissue that cannot be seen with a simple oral exam. In addition, X-rays help the dentist find and treat dental problems early in their development, which can potentially save you money, unnecessary discomfort, and maybe even your life.

What Problems Can Dental X-Rays Detect?

Cysts are not visible to the naked eye, but can be detected via x-ray

Cysts are not visible to the naked eye, but can be detected via x-ray

In adults, dental X-rays can be used to:

  • Show areas of decay that may not be visible with an oral exam, especially small areas of decay between teeth
  • Identify decay occurring beneath an existing filling
  • Reveal bone loss that accompanies gum disease
  • Reveal changes in the bone or in the root canal resulting from infection
  • Assist in the preparation of tooth implants, braces, dentures, or other dental procedures
  • Reveal an abscess (an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth)
  • Reveal other developmental abnormalities, such as cysts and some types of tumors


In children, dental X-rays are used to:

  • Watch for decay
  • Determine if there is enough space in the mouth to fit all incoming teeth
  • Determine if primary teeth are being lost quickly enough to allow permanent teeth to come in properly
  • Check for the development of wisdom teeth and identify if the teeth are impacted (unable to emerge through the gums)


    How Often Should Teeth Be X-Rayed? 


    People who fall into the high risk category who may need X-rays taken more frequently include:

  • Children . Children generally need more X-rays than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are smaller. As a result, decay can reach the inner part of the tooth, dentin, quicker and spread faster.

  • Adults with extensive restorative work, such as fillings to look for decay beneath existing fillings or in new locations.

  • People who drink a lot of sugary beverages to look for tooth decay (since the sugary environment creates a perfect situation for cavities to develop).

  • People with periodontal (gum) disease to monitor bone loss.

  • People who have dry mouth -- called xerostomia -- whether due to medications (such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs,antihistamines, and others) or disease states (such as Sjögren's syndrome, damaged salivary glands, radiation treatment to head and neck). Dry mouth conditions can lead to the development of cavities.
  • Smokers to monitor bone loss resulting from periodontal disease(smokers are at increased risk of periodontal disease).

How Safe Are Dental X-Rays?

Exposure to all sources of radiation (including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays) can damage the body's tissues and cells HOWEVER , the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of dental X-rays is extremely small.  The dose of radiation that you are exposed to at our office is even smaller due to the use of digital X-rays.