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February 15, 2022

Examining the Role & Purpose of Dental X-rays

All of us know that Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays in 1895. But did you know that
Dr.Otto Walkhoff, the German scientist created the first dental radiograph in 1896? In the past 150 odd years, dental x-rays have become a mandatory dental tool.

When you visit your dentist with an oral problem, your dentist will first do a visual examination and then recommend an x-ray. Why? Because a visual examination will not deliver all the necessary information, but an x-ray can display everything right to the tooth root.

So, What's The Need For Dental X-Rays?

The prime purpose of using x-rays is to understand the condition of the entire oral cavity, which includes the teeth, jaws, and tooth root. Nowadays, every dental clinic is equipped with dental x-ray machines because it has become a necessity.

Root decay and cavities almost show no signs of trouble in their early stages. However, a dental x-ray will completely expose the real picture of what's going on inside the tooth. A single x-ray can expose the:

  • Condition of your teeth
  • Facial composition
  • Jaw placement
  • Bone loss due to periodontal diseases
  • Position of your teeth
  • Position of dental accessories
  • Decay beneath fillings
  • Cysts and other tumours
  • Decay between the teeth
  • Depth of tooth abscesses

Are dental x-rays painful? Absolutely not. A dental x-ray procedure is very similar to getting an x-ray taken for any other body part. It is quick, painless, and efficient. Let's explore what happens during a dental x-ray procedure so that you get a full picture of the process.

Also Read: Oral Health Amid The Pandemic: What To Do & Not Do

Dental X-ray: Types & Procedure Explained

Dental x-rays can be categorised into Intraoral and Extraoral x-rays. There are four kinds of intraoral x-rays.

1. Bitewing x-rays

Bitewing x-rays refer to the x-rays normally taken during a routine dental examination. This technique involves biting down on a piece of paper when the image is taken. Each bitewing x-ray reveal details of the lower and upper teeth in a particular area of the oral cavity. Your dentist can see your tooth from its crown to the level of the jaw bone. Bitewing x-rays help to:

  • Detect dental carries between your teeth
  • Determine if the crown fits properly
  • Determine the integrity and strength of fillings

2. Periapical X-rays

Periapical x-rays cover the entire tooth from the edge of the tooth crown to the root tip. This type of X-rays are usually taken when you are having symptoms with a specific tooth or during a follow-up procedure.

Since periapical x-rays reveal the dimensions of the complete tooth, it is often used to analyse:

  • Root structure abnormalities
  • Bone structure abnormalities
  • Deep-rooted decays and abscesses

3. Occlusal x-rays

These x-rays are not used as often as the others. However, they are highly specialised and can provide extremely valuable information about your teeth. Occlusal x-rays expose the roof and floor of the mouth. Your dentist will recommend occlusal x-rays to detect:

  • Extra or impacted teeth
  • Abnormalities in the mouth
  • Issues with the jaw
  • Solid growth and tumours

Extraoral x-rays include:

Panoramic x-rays

Also known as a Panorex x-ray, orthodontists mostly take these types of x-rays before fixing braces or by oral surgeons before extraction or oral surgery. For a panoramic x-ray, the machine will rotate around your head to deliver a clear image of your entire oral cavity. These x-rays are often used to detect:

  • Detect implanted dental devices
  • Investigate jaw-related issues
  • Check for issues in the wisdom teeth

Other extraoral xrays include Tomograms, Sialography, Cephalometric projections and Computed Tomography.

What happens during a dental x-ray?

A dental x-ray procedure requires no prior preparation. However, we suggest you brush and rinse your teeth thoroughly before you leave for your appointment. It will wash away all the food particles settled inside the crevices of your mouth.

Generally, your dentist positions you in the dental chair and place a lead vest over your chest. They will position the x-ray machine alongside your head to take images of your mouth. If it is a bitewing x-ray, you will be asked to bite on a piece of special paper during the process.

Today, digital x-rays have made life much easier for patients and dentists, thanks to recent advances in medical sciences. Digital x-ray machines capture the image with a specialised sensor that sends the image directly to your dentist's computer. Your dentist will be able to view the image as and when the procedure is happening. They can also zoom in and take a closer look at the tooth that's troubling you.

Digital x-ray machines are not only crystal clear and accurate but also reduce the amount of radiation used. These images can also be sent to another dentist to gather second opinions. However, one of the best things about digital x-rays is a process called Subtraction Radiography. This technique uses a software with which dentists can compare current images to previous ones. Everything common between the two images is subtracted, leaving a clear image of the portion that's different. With this technique, your dentist can see even the tiniest issues they might have missed during the examination.

When Will You Need A Dental X-Ray?

No dentist will recommend an x-ray unless you actually need one. Your requirement for a dental x-ray depends on your medical and dental history and your current condition. People who will most definitely need a dental x-ray include:

  • Children- because their teeth and jaws are still developing
  • Adults- those with extensive restoration work
  • Smokers- because they are at an increased risk of periodontal diseases
  • Patients- those who have dry mouth due to medication intake

People often wonder if dental x-rays are safe. Generally, any kind of radiation exposure is unsafe. Fortunately, dental x-rays do not emit dangerous levels of radiation. In fact, the radiation levels from dental x-rays are minuscule, especially if it is a digital x-ray.

If you are concerned about radiation exposure due to dental x-rays, you can always talk to our dentists in Medavakkam and Gowrivakkam. Our dental clinics in Gowrivakkam & Medavakkam, are equipped with state-of-the-art x-ray machines that are safe, accurate, and efficient. Swing by here to book your appointment.

Our Branches

6/13, First Floor,
Velachery main road,
Medavakkam, Chennai,
Tamil Nadu - 600100.


141-168, Velachery Rd,
New Kunagkurichi, Gowriwakkam,
Sembakkam, Chennai,
Tamil Nadu - 600117.

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