What Do Dental X-rays Actually Show the Doctor?

What Do Dental X-rays Actually Show the Doctor?

Apr 8, 2015 | 12:00 pm

X-ray is a wonderful way to see inside the human body. It is especially great for seeing bone and bone structures and tells a telltale story of what is going on with those structures. Dental x-rays are an intricate part of diagnosing problems that are not always obvious to the naked eye. These little films will produce the perfect picture of what is happening underneath the creamy white covering of the tooth that hides the true detail of how one’s dental hygiene is actually serving the user.


When the dental technician informs the patient that x-rays will be taken, protection in the form of lead aprons should be offered. These lead aprons will block the rays of radiation that are dangerous to organs like the thyroid, testicles, and ovaries because overexposure can actually change configuration of DNA molecules.

After the patient is sufficiently protected, the technician should don unsterile gloves in order also to protect the patient and equipment from cross contamination from one patient to another. Following each patient, all equipment should be wiped down with antibacterial solution. The technician will then pull the x-ray tube, which is a small cylinder connected to an arm that will take an x-ray type of photograph of each tooth, one to four at a time.

Small backdrop props poised on properly angled wires are balanced appropriately in the side of the cheek or in the middle of the mouth, and the picture is snapped. It also shows any dental irregularities or the presence of conditions like tmj. Once the small dental x-rays are developed, the technician will number the teeth appropriately and the diagnoses will be documented for the dentist to observe, usually, collaboratively with the technician.

Types of X-rays

The bitewing dental x-rays are used to show decay between the teeth and how well the teeth are aligned. They will show overlapping and crowding, so the dentist will know immediately to check these spots for problems. They can also indicate bone loss as a result of gum disease and certain types of infection.

Periapical x-rays show more of the whole tooth, from the top or crown of the tooth down to the root and the bone that encases it. These dental x-rays are reliable to show problems beneath the gum like bone tumors, abscesses, cysts and other bone changes.

Special dental x-rays like occlusal films are used to view the roof and floor of the mouth. They reveal problems like growths, foreign objects, cysts or other malformations like cleft palates or other breeches in the perimeters of the mouth.

In order to get a clear and broad view of the sinuses and nasal cavities, the jawbones, temporomandibular joints, and teeth from a more linear aspect, the panoramic dental x-rays are used. These types of films are excellent to show fractures and other bone structure problems.

A full-mouth series of periapical X-rays (about 14 to 21 X-ray films) is most often done during a person’s first visit to the dentist. Bitewing X-rays are used during checkups to look for tooth decay. Panoramic X-rays may be used occasionally. Dental X-rays are scheduled when you need them based on your age, risk for disease, and signs of disease.