Dental X-rays

Dental X-rays 

Dental X-rays, or radiographs, can provide important information about your child’s oral health. They allow Dr. Parker to evaluate areas that can’t be seen with the naked eye. For example, radiographs help Dr. Parker examine the underlying bone, roots of your teeth, or unerupted teeth, as well as the contact areas, where teeth touch one another.  In some cases, dental radiographs can uncover a condition at an early stage before your child experiences any signs or symptoms that something is wrong.  Below are some commonly asked questions about X-rays and information about the types of X-rays used in the dental office.

What are X-rays?

X-rays are a form of radiation that can penetrate many materials, including bone and soft tissue. Since X-rays also can expose photographic films, they have become very important in both dentistry and medicine. By placing the area that needs to be examined between film and an X-ray machine, physicians or dentists can obtain a picture of some conditions beneath the body’s surface.

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How do X-rays work?

When a radiograph is taken, more X-rays are absorbed by dense tissues (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as the cheeks and gums) before striking the film. This creates an image on the film.

Bony structures, like teeth, appear lighter because fewer X-rays reach the film. Soft tissues appear darker because more X-rays pass through the film.

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How often should my child have dental X-ray examinations?

Like any other aspect of dental treatment, dental X-ray examinations are scheduled on an individual basis. Dr. Parker will recommend dental radiographs after reviewing your child’s health history and examining their mouth. Based on this information Dr. Parker can determine if radiographs are needed.

The schedule for radiographs on periodic visits varies according to age, risk for disease, and signs and symptoms of disease. New films may be needed to identify whether there is any decay present, assess the severity of gum disease, or evaluate the status of growth and development. Children may need X-ray examinations more often than adults because their oral structures are growing and changing. Periodic radiographs can help Dr. Parker chart the progress of this growth and development and to see if permanent teeth will be erupting normally.

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Can I have my previous X-ray films sent to Dr. Parker’s office?

Arrangements usually can be made with your previous dentist to have copies sent to Dr. Parker’s office. Dr. Parker may require additional x-rays if the copies sent by your previous dentist are not diagnostic.

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What scientific groups and governmental agencies advise dentists concerning the use of X-radiation?

Many organizations have developed recommendations or regulations on the proper, safe and effective use of X-rays in dentistry, including the Centers for Devices and Radiological Health of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Association of Orthodontics.

Individual state governments also have regulations regarding the use of radiation and X-ray equipment.

By following these recommendations and regulations, dentists can obtain the diagnostic information they need to effectively treat patients (maximum benefit) with the least possible exposure (minimum risk).

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Types of Dental Radiographs:

Bitewing Radiograph


Bitewing X-rays

A bitewing radiograph shows the crowns of several teeth on one small film. Films of this type are especially useful for showing tooth decay between the teeth and changes in the underlying bone caused by gum disease.

Periapical Radiographs


Periapical X-rays

A periapical radiograph shows several teeth completely including the crowns, all of the roots and some of the surrounding tissue on one small film. A periapical film can show many types of disorders, including teeth that are impacted (blocked from erupting), fractures, abscesses, cysts, tumors, and characteristic bone patters of some systemic diseases (diseases of the whole body).

Panoramic Radiograph


Panoramic X-ray

A panoramic radiograph shows all the upper and lower teeth, large portions of the jaws, and other structures on one large film. It is often used to detect unerupted or impacted teeth, cysts, retained root fragments, fractures and other conditions of the jaws.

Digital radiograph

Digital radiography is a relatively recent technology being incorporated into some dental offices. With the digital approach, a sensor (rather than film) is positioned at the area to be examined. The electronic image collected by the sensor can be saved to a computer, where it can be viewed on the screen, stored in a patients computer file, and if necessary transmitted via email to an insurance carrier or another dental office.