X-Rays Aren’t Scary!

An X-ray is a special picture that lets a doctor or dentist see inside the body. What shows up on an X-ray? Mainly teeth and some soft tissue.  X-rays are a great way to see what’s going on inside the mouth. Here’s the kind of stuff that a dentist might look for in a dental X-ray:

  • Cavities that are hidden below the gumline, or between two teeth
  • Tooth roots, and any infections that might be around the roots
  • Teeth that are still under the gum, such as wisdom teeth
  • Bone loss in the jaw or problems with the TMJ joint
  • X-rays can also show how well the upper and lower teeth line up together

Types of Commonly Taken Dental X-rays

There are two types of dental X-rays: bitewing and panoramic. Bitewing X-rays are close-up pictures of the teeth that show little things like cavities. These are the more common kind of dental X-ray. Usually, four bitewing X-rays are taken at one time. A panoramic X-ray is the second, and less common type of X-ray. Panoramic X-rays go around the head, and show all the teeth. They also show the tooth roots, jaw bones, and jaw joints.

Should I Worry About Radiation?

Some parents worry about radiation in X-rays, but the amount of radiation in a dental X-ray is very small. A set of four bitewing X-rays gives you about the same amount of radiation that you get from the sun and other sources in one day. In fact, you get much more radiation just from flying in an airplane for a few hours than you do from a dental X-ray. The only people who shouldn’t have dental X-rays are pregnant women, unless it is a dental emergency.

Because you can only see about one third of the tooth with the naked eye, X-rays play an important role in dental care. There is a lot of helpful information that a dentist can get from taking an X-ray, and if your dentist recommends one, it’s so they can give you the best care possible.


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