Dental X-rays

X-rays are high frequency light (or radiation) that penetrates different substances with different rates and absorption. 

In dentistry, there are typically four types of X-rays:

  • Periapical x-rays: used to look at the root tip of the tooth
  • Bite-wing x-rays: used to look between the teeth for decay
  • Occlusal x-rays: are primarily used for children to show the dentist the development of the child’s permanent teeth. Some children have Congenitally Missing teeth, which means they were born without a permanent tooth.
  • Panoramic x-rays: used to see the entire jaw bone, check for tumors and growths, view the position of your wisdom teeth, impacted teeth and even extra teeth

Dental x-rays are an important tool in the diagnosis and treatment of dental problems. They do not, however, replace the need for a visual examination of the head, neck, TMJ and the oral cavity. It is only with the combination of both the x-rays and the visual examination that the dentist can best diagnose his or her patients.

Are they safe?

Our environment contains natural radiation and the dental x-rays produce a low level of radiation that the public and professional community considers safe. Many precautions are taken to ensure their safety including using lead aprons, shields, and a fast process which limits exposure.

You will be happy to know that 18 conventional dental x-rays deliver 56,000 times less radiation than an upper GI series, 800 times less than a chest x-ray, and 40 times less radiation than a typical day of background radiation from the sun. Dental x-rays are both safe and effective, and can be used during pregnancy. Most of Family First Dental offices have integrated digital x-rays into their offices, which have a minimal radiation exposure. Eventually all of Family First Dental office will have digital x-ray.

Digital x-rays offer additional advantages, with an additional 80 percent reduction in the radiation exposure to the conventional dental x-rays stated above. Using digital x-rays there is no need for film, processing chemicals, and the dentist gets the image in about 3 seconds. The exposure to radiation with digital x-ray is very minimal and hard to measure.

How often will I need dental X-rays?

Each patient is unique and the number of dental x-rays needed is based on their individual dental health needs. If you are concerned with the recommended necessity of x-rays, please discuss your feelings with your doctor and dental hygienist to gain more information and to create a healthy plan for you. X-rays are often used for a few years, unless major dental restorations are performed. Check-up exams may require a few x-rays to be taken. These are called bite-wing x-rays. They are a single x-ray used to reveal the crowns of several upper and lower teeth as they bite down.

Note: For more information on dentistry, please visit the following two websites: The American Dental Association Website and WebMD at or visit our links page. Please ask our knowledgeable staff any questions or concerns you may have. They are there to help you!