A simple oral exam only allows a dentist to see the visible surfaces of the teeth and the insides of the oral cavity. With the help of an X-ray, dentists can visualize the structures present within the tooth cavity as well as the supporting bone. This allows them to detect and treat dental issues that may otherwise remain undiagnosed and lead to more problems.

Who Needs a Dental X-Ray?

A patient’s requirement for a dental x-ray depends on their dental and medical health conditions. The American Dental Association has set up guidelines that should be followed by every dentist with regards to using dental X-rays on patients. While it is not the norm, some dentists may advise dental X-rays on your initial appointment to set a baseline record that can be used in the future for diagnostic comparisons or dental changes that may occur over some time.

Patients with progressive diseases like periodontitis may need dental X-rays every few months to monitor bone loss. Wisdom teeth that sway from their typical pattern of eruption can become impacted and lead to further dental issues; they require regular monitoring as well through dental X-rays.

Problems That Can Be Detected by Dental X-Rays:

Dental cavities that are not visible on the surface of the tooth or those that may appear small but have larger decay underneath. Dental decay underneath an old filling can also be detected.
Bone loss caused due to gum disease.
Infection that has reached the root canal of the tooth or even the bone.
Some procedures, like the placement of dental implants, warrant the need for dental X-rays for the treatment to be carried out correctly.
Diagnosis of developmental anomalies like cysts or tumors.
Monitor the possibility of wisdom teeth getting impacted.
In children, dental X-rays can be used to determine adequate space for erupting teeth.

Types of Dental X-Rays:

Periapical X-Ray:

Captures the image of two or three teeth at a time and displays the entire tooth down to the root. Used for detection of tooth and root cavities, and signs of infection or abscess around the root.

Bitewing X-Ray:

This type of X-ray allows dentists to detect cavities that may arise in between two teeth, an area that is not visually accessible inside the mouth. The patient is required to bite down on the film while the X-ray is being taken, which gives it its name.

Panoramic X-Ray:

This is a type of sizeable dental X-ray that requires a separate machine. The X-ray provides a detailed image of all the teeth in both lower and upper arches, along with the bone and supporting structures. They are usually used for extensive dental work like multiple extractions, braces, dental implants, etc.


This type of X-ray offers three-dimensional images of the teeth, roots, and the jaw. It exposes the patient to a considerable amount of radiation compared to conventional dental X-rays, and hence, is used only when regular X-rays do not offer the same diagnostic results.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Patients often have concerns with the number or frequency of X-rays they may have to undergo during dental treatment. While these concerns are not completely unwarranted due to the ill-effects of excessive radiation exposure, dentists usually insist on dental X-rays only when it is absolutely necessary. Moreover, the dose of radiation due to dental X-rays is so minuscule that patients do not need to worry about any form of harmful effects.

With continued advancements in dentistry, the risks associated with dental X-rays have minimized substantially. However, if you still have questions about dental X-rays and the potential risks that concern you, it is always a good idea to talk to your dentist. You can enquire about the reason for dental x-rays being advised to you and also how often you may need them.