The Purpose, Risks, and 4 Steps of Dental X-Rays that You Should Know

Dental X-rays (radiographs) are pictures of your teeth that are used by your dentist to assess your oral health. These low-level radiation X-rays are used to acquire pictures of the inside of your teeth and gums. This can assist your dentist in identifying issues such as cavities, dental decay, and impacted teeth.

Dental X-rays may appear complicated, but they are actually fairly common equipment that is as necessary as tooth cleanings.

Why are dental X-rays taken?

Dental X-rays are usually taken once a year. They may occur more frequently if your dentist is monitoring the development of a dental condition or therapy.

The following factors may influence how frequently you have dental X-rays:

  • Your age
  • Your current oral health
  • Any symptoms of oral disease
  • A history of gum disease (gingivitis) or tooth decay

If you’re a new patient, you’ll most likely be subjected to dental X-rays so your new dentist can receive a complete image of your oral health. This is extremely crucial if you don’t have any past dentist’s X-rays.

Dental X-rays are usually taken once a year
Dental X-rays are usually taken once a year

Children may require more frequent dental X-rays than adults since their dentists may need to monitor the growth of their adult teeth. This is significant because it can assist the dentist in determining if baby teeth should be removed to avoid issues such as adult teeth growing behind baby teeth.


Risks of Dental X-rays

While dental X-rays do expose patients to radiation, the amounts are so minimal that they are deemed safe for both children and adults. Your radiation exposure risks are reduced even further if your dentist utilizes digital X-rays instead of processing them on film.

Your dentist will also drape a lead “bib” over your chest, belly, and pelvic region to protect your essential organs from unwanted radiation exposure. In the case of thyroid issues, a thyroid collar may be employed. Children and women of reproductive age may wear these in addition to the lead bib.

The exception to the norm is pregnancy.
The exception to the norm is pregnancy.

The exception to the norm is pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or suspect they are pregnant should avoid any X-rays. If you suspect you are pregnant, notify your dentist since radiation is not considered safe for growing pregnancies.


Getting Ready for Dental X-Rays

No specific preparation is required for dental X-rays. The only thing you’ll want to do before your visit is washed your teeth. This provides a more sanitary environment for people who operate within your mouth. X-rays are typically taken before cleaning.

You’ll sit in a chair with a lead vest across your chest and lap at the dentist’s office. The X-ray machine is placed next to your head to capture photos of your mouth. Some dental clinics keep X-rays in a separate area, while others keep them in the same room for cleanings and other operations.

Various types of X-rays

There are many dental X-rays, each of which captures a slightly different perspective of your mouth. Intraoral X-rays, for example, are the most prevalent.



Biting down on a particular piece of paper allows your dentist to observe how well the crowns of your teeth match up. This is frequently used to detect cavities between teeth (interdental).



When your jaw is closed, this X-ray examines how your upper and lower teeth line up. It can also identify anatomical anomalies in the mouth floor or palate. This method captures all of your teeth in a single shot.



The machine spins around the head for this form of X-ray. Your dentist may use this method to examine your wisdom teeth, arrange for implanted dental equipment, or evaluate jaw disorders.

The machine spins around the head for this form of X-ray
The machine spins around the head for this form of X-ray




This method concentrates on two complete teeth, from root to crown.


When your dentist feels that there may be abnormalities in places other than the gums and teeth, such as the jaw, extraoral X-rays may be utilized.


Each step of the X-ray procedure will be guided by a dental hygienist. They might leave the room temporarily while the photographs are being taken. You will be told to stay still while the photographs are taken. If spacers (film holders) are utilized, they will be moved and adjusted in your mouth to acquire the correct photographs.


After dental X-rays

When the photos are available — in the case of digital X-rays, quickly — your dentist will study them and look for any anomalies. If a dental hygienist is cleaning your teeth, the dentist may go over the X-ray results with you once the cleaning is completed. The hygienist may make an exception if major concerns are discovered during the X-rays.


If your dentist discovers any issues, such as cavities or tooth decay, they will discuss your treatment options with you. Keep up the good work if your dentist detects no issues!

If your dentist discovers any issues, they will discuss your treatment options with you
If your dentist discovers any issues, they will discuss your treatment options with you


Getting frequent dental X-rays, like brushing and flossing, is an important aspect of maintaining your overall oral health.


A successful checkup might be relieving, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to receive X-rays.


X-rays may be conducted every one to two years, depending on your age, health, and insurance coverage. Keep regular visits and see your dentist as soon as you notice any discomfort or other changes in your mouth.



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