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Why are Dental X-Rays Important?

By J. Beam
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dental x-rays are an important part of routine dental care for both adults and children. Not only do dental x-rays reveal potential problems with incoming teeth, they can also reveal potential problems caused by hidden plaque. In addition to detecting common problems with teeth, dental x-rays can help detect gum disease and even osteoporosis.

There are two different types of dental x-rays – bite wing and periapical. The bite wing x-ray is taken when the teeth bite down together and shows the crown portions of the top and bottom teeth. The periapical is a more selective x-ray taken to show one or two specific teeth from crown to root.

In children, routine dental x-rays are recommended because they show the position, number, and size of teeth and because they can detect the presence of cavities before they can be seen on the surface of the teeth. Without dental x-rays, a dentist must rely only on a visual examination of the teeth. Sometimes cavities begin forming from plaque lodged between the teeth where a dentist can’t see. With the aid of dental x-rays, hidden cavities can be detected and taken care of early so there is less damage to the tooth.

Routine dental x-rays also detect impacted teeth, which can be a problem from childhood to early adulthood. In the event of injury, dental x-rays help determine the type and extent of injury. Recent research also indicates that dental x-rays might serve as an alternative method of screening for osteoporosis in older adults.

Dental x-rays, like all other x-rays do require low-level radiation exposure, but are still considered safe and are only performed at routine intervals or when a problem is suspected. Talk to your dentist if you have questions or concerns about dental x-rays. Typically, no special appointment is needed for x-rays as they can be done as part of routine cleanings and exams.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Ocelot60 — On Jul 17, 2014

Many dental offices also use panoramic x-rays for a full view of the patient's teeth, gums, and jaw. Though more costly than basic dental x-rays, panoramic x-rays are very useful when it comes to diagnosing and treating more in-depth dental problems.

If you are a patient that needs complex dental work, or has a problem that has been difficult to pinpoint, you should visit a dental practice that offers this modern x-ray technology.

By Rundocuri — On Jul 16, 2014

If you have concerns about having dental x-rays done, you should look for a dentist that has the latest x-ray machines. This equipment uses the most modern technology to reduce the level of radiation a patient is exposed to when he or she gets dental x-rays.

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