Why X-Rays are Necessary for Dental Care

X-rays are required every so often as part of your dental check-up. Do you know why this is?

When your dentist examines your teeth and gums at your six-month check-ups, they can only see the surface of your teeth. But what’s going on within the teeth and below the gumline is also an important part of your oral health. X-rays allow your dentist to take a closer look at those areas to detect any potential problems that may be lurking just out of sight, such as:

  • Abscesses
  • Tooth decay underneath fillings
  • Cavities and decay between the teeth
  • Cysts and other tumors
  • Bone loss in the jaw related to gum disease

What do dental x-rays do?

X-rays create images of the inside of your teeth and gums. They work by emitting a low level of radiation through your mouth area. The radiation passes right through your gums, cheeks, and other soft tissues, and shows up as the dark areas on the x-ray image. Your teeth and bones, which are dense, soak up the radiation, creating the light areas on the image. X-rays can be useful information ahead of procedures such as dental implants and dentures.

Your dentist will use different types of x-rays to capture different views of your mouth and jaw. The most frequently used dental x-rays are:

  • Bitewing: Used to detect cavities that form between the teeth
  • Occlusal: Used to assess the alignment of your upper and lower rows of teeth
  • Panoramic: Used to get an overall view of your teeth
  • Periapical: Used to examine one or two teeth up close

When does the dentist need to take x-rays of my teeth?

If your teeth are generally in good shape and you aren’t undergoing a specific dental treatment, you only need to be x-rayed every other year or so. If you have gum disease or tooth decay, you may be asked to do x-rays more frequently—typically twice a year.

You may also be asked for x-rays in the following instances in order to provide an updated view of your oral health:

  • If you start seeing a new dentist
  • If it has been several years since your last checkup
  • If you are considering braces, dentures, or dental implants
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