Dental X-rays are pictures of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues around them to help find problems with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. X-ray pictures can show cavities, hidden dental structures (such as wisdom teeth), and bone loss that cannot be seen during a visual examination. Dental X-rays may also be done as follow-up after dental treatments.
The following types of dental X-rays are commonly used. The X-rays use small amounts of radiation.
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.
Why It Is Done
Dental X-rays are done to:
Without X-rays, dentists may miss the early stages of decay between teeth.
For people who have no tooth decay and are not at high risk of getting cavities:1
For people who have tooth decay or are at high risk of getting cavities:1
How To Prepare
Before the X-ray test, tell your doctor if you are or might be pregnant. Dental X-rays are only done on your mouth area, but if you are pregnant, routine dental X-rays may be postponed so you do not have any radiation to your baby (fetus). If dental X-rays are absolutely needed, a lead apron will be placed over your belly to shield your baby from the X-rays.
You do not need to do anything else before having a dental X-ray.
How It Is Done
Dental X-rays are taken in the dentist's office. The X-ray pictures are read by your dentist.
Some dentists use digital radiography. This method uses an electronic sensor instead of X-ray film. An electronic image is taken and stored in a computer. This image can be viewed on a computer screen. Less radiation is needed to make an image with digital radiography than with standard dental X-rays.
How It Feels
X-rays take only a few minutes and are not painful.
Some people may gag on the plastic or cardboard that holds the X-ray film. People often find it easier to relax if they focus on something else (such as an object on the wall) and take slow, deep breaths through their nose during the X-rays.
The amount of radiation used in dental X-rays is low. But there is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for this test. But the risk of damage from the X-rays is usually very low compared with the potential benefits of the test.
Pregnant women may not want to have routine dental X-rays taken until after they give birth. Although there is no proof that a routine dental X-ray could harm a developing baby (fetus), dentists usually suggest you wait to have your X-rays until after the baby is born. Delaying the X-ray for a few months will not result in further harm to teeth in most cases. There are times when the severity of the dental problem requires an X-ray to deal with an urgent concern.
Dental X-rays are pictures of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues around them to help find problems with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. Your dentist can talk to you about your X-rays right after they are done.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
What To Think About
If you are going to a new dentist, have your other dentist send copies of your dental X-rays to your new dentist. You may not need any more X-rays with your new dentist.
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