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SW Nebraska Dental Center

Let's Delve into Dental X-Rays

July 8, 2021
Posted By: Kaitlin Haag

Let’s Delve into Dental X-rays


    A dentist cannot do a full and complete examination of your mouth without x-rays.  They are essential for us to be able to diagnose an infection in your tooth or the roots of your teeth, cavities between teeth or under fillings, the growth and development of the teeth and jaws for children and teenagers, and bone loss from severe gum disease.  X-rays may also be needed as part of your dental treatment, and your dentist will evaluate the need for x-rays based on your current oral health, your age, your risk for cavities and gum disease, and your past history of dental work.  The American Dental Association has come up with a set of guidelines to help your dentist ascertain the frequency and types of dental radiographs you will need.  Every initial visit should include x-rays and these provide a baseline for comparison over the years and a way to evaluate what is normal in your specific hard tissue anatomy.

    There are different types of x-rays that your dentist may take which provide different and important information.

  • Bitewings (BW)

    • These are taken with small films or small digital sensors.

    • You are asked to bite down.

    • The x-rays will show the crowns of your top teeth and bottom teeth and are used to check for cavities in between the teeth.

    • These are taken on back teeth only

  • Periapicals (PA)

    • These are taken with small films or small digital sensors.

    • Used to evaluate the roots of the teeth and the surrounding bone.

    • They can be taken on front or back teeth.

  • Panoramic (pano)

    • This x-ray is taking while you are standing up.

    • The machine rotates around your head.

    • The image shows all the teeth and jaws

    • Crucial to evaluate growth and development.

  • Cone beam computed technology (CBCT)

    • 3D image of teeth and bone structure.

    • Often used for oral surgery like extractions and placements of implants.

    • Higher dose of radiation than the more common dental x-rays listed above.

Dental x-rays do expose us to radiation so we all need to be careful and aware.  Dental x-rays are very safe.  We are all exposed to different types of radiation throughout the day including sunshine, air, and soil.  In fact, you are exposed to more radiation during a transcontinental flight than an entire lifetime of dental x-rays taken at regular intervals.

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