Dental x-rays are an integral part of the management and treatment of the dental patient. They allow the dentist access to areas between and inside the teeth, under the gums, and in the jawbones. These are areas that are inaccessible to the naked eye. This permits the dentist to properly diagnose and treat any abnormalities detected by x-rays.

The most commonly used dental x-rays fall into three categories:

  • Periapicals: these provide visibility of the entire tooth and root, as well as the surrounding jaw bone and gums. These x-rays are used to diagnose tooth infections extending into the bone (abscesses), root fractures and general root anatomy. They are also an important tool in the treatment of gum disease as dentists are clearly able to monitor the height of bone attachment surrounding the teeth.
  • Bitewings: show the crowns (parts of the teeth above the gum line). These x-rays are used in the diagnosis of cavities between the teeth.
  • Panoramic x-rays: are the largest of the 3 types of x-rays. They show all the upper and lower teeth and jaws, as well as the sinuses in one x-ray. These x-rays are used in the treatment of wisdom teeth, diagnoses of disease and abnormalities in the jawbone, the placement of dental implants, and are a useful tool in the treatment of gum disease.

The frequency at which x-rays are taken depend on age, disease susceptibility and symptoms. Children may require x-rays more frequently than adults due to continuing jaw development and a higher risk of cavities. It is advisable to consult the dentist to determine each patient’s need for x-rays.