X-ray - teeth; Radiograph - dental; Bitewings; Periapical film; Panoramic film; Cephalometric x-ray; Digital image
Dental x-rays are a type of image of the teeth and mouth. X-rays are a form of high energy electromagnetic radiation. The x-rays penetrate the body to form an image on film or screen. X-rays can be either digital or developed on a film.
Structures that are dense (such as silver fillings or metal restoration) will block most of the light energy from the x-ray. This makes them appear white in the image. Structures that contain air will be black and teeth, tissue, and fluid will appear as shades of gray.
The test is performed in the dentist's office. There are many types of dental x-rays. Some of them are:
Many dentists are also taking x-rays using digital technology. These images run through a computer. The amount of radiation given off during the procedure is less than traditional methods. Other types of dental x-rays can create a 3-D picture of the jaw. Cone beam computerized tomography (CBCT) may be used before dental surgery, such as when several implants are being placed.
There is no special preparation. You need to remove any metal objects in the area of the x-ray exposure. A lead apron may be placed over your body. Tell your dentist if you might be pregnant.
The x-ray itself causes no discomfort. Biting on the piece of film makes some people gag. Slow, deep breathing through the nose usually relieves this feeling. Both CBCT and cephalometric x-ray do not require any biting pieces.
Dental x-rays help diagnose disease and injury of the teeth and gums as well as help planning the appropriate treatment.
Normal x-rays show a normal number, structure, and position of the teeth and jaw bones. There are no cavities or other problems.
Dental x-rays may be used to identify the following:
There is very low radiation exposure from dental x-rays. However, no one should receive more radiation than necessary. A lead apron can be used to cover the body and reduce radiation exposure. Pregnant women should not have x-rays taken unless necessary.
Dental x-rays can reveal dental cavities before they are clinically visible, even to the dentist. Many dentists will take yearly bitewings to look for early development of cavities in between the teeth.
Brame JL, Hunt LC, Nesbit SP. Maintenance phase of care. In: Stefanac SJ, Nesbit SP, eds. Diagnosis and Treatment Planning in Dentistry. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 11.
Dhar V. Diagnostic radiology in dental assessment. In:Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 343.
Gold L, Williams TP. Odontogenic tumors: surgical pathology and management. In: Fonseca RJ, ed. Oral And Maxillofacial Surgery. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap18.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 2/6/2020
Reviewed By: Michael Kapner, DDS, Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, Norwalk, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2021 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.