Dental X-rays


Dental X-rays (radiographs) are images of your teeth that your dentist uses to evaluate your oral health. These X-rays are used with low levels of radiation to capture images of the interior of your teeth and gums. This can help your dentist to identify problems, like cavities, tooth decay, and impacted teeth.

Dental X-rays may seem complex, but they’re actually very common tools that are just as important as your teeth cleanings.


Types of X-rays

There are several types of dental X-rays, which record slightly different views of your mouth. The most common are intraoral X-rays, such as:


  • Bitewing. This technique involves biting down on a special piece of paper so that your dentist can see how well the crowns of your teeth match up. This is commonly used to check for cavities between teeth (interdental).
  • Occlusal. This X-ray is done when your jaw is closed to see how your upper and bottom teeth line up. It can also detect anatomical abnormalities with the floor of the mouth or the palate.
  • Occlusal. This technique captures all of your teeth in one shot.
  • Panoramic. For this type of X-ray, the machine rotates around the head. Your dentist may use this technique to check your wisdom teeth, plan for implanted dental devices, or investigate jaw problems.
  • Periapical. This technique focuses on two complete teeth from root to crown.

Extraoral X-rays may be used when your dentist suspects there might be problems in areas outside of the gums and teeth, such as the jaw.


A dental hygienist will guide you through each step of the X-ray process. They might step outside of the room briefly while the images are being taken. You’ll be instructed to hold still while the pictures are recorded. Spacers (film holders), if they’re used, will be moved and adjusted in your mouth to obtain the proper images.


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