Dental X-rays

Dental X-rays are a type of image of the teeth and mouth. X-rays are a form of high energy electromagnetic radiation. X-rays can penetrate the body to form an image on film.

Structures that are dense (such as silver fillings or metal restoration) will block most of the light energy from the x-ray. They will appear white on developed film. Structures containing air will be black on film, and teeth, tissue, and fluid will appear as shades of gray.

How the Test is Performed
The test is performed in the dentist’s office. There are many types of dental X-rays. Some are:

Bitewing
Periapical
Palatal (also called occlusal)
Panoramic
The bitewing shows the crown portions of the top and bottom teeth together when the patient bites on a paper tab.

The periapical shows one or two complete teeth from crown to root.

A palatal or occlusal X-ray captures all the upper and lower teeth in one shot while the film rests on the biting surface of the teeth.

A panoramic X-ray requires a special machine that rotates around the head. The X-ray captures the entire jaws and teeth in one shot. It is used to plan treatment for dental implants, check for impacted wisdom teeth, and detect jaw problems. A panoramic X-ray is not the best method for detecting cavities, unless the decay is very advanced and deep.

In addition, many dentists are taking X-rays using digital technology. The image runs 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 prior to dental surgery, especially when multiple implants are being placed.