Dental Patient being shown X-rays of their teeth
IN THIS ARTICLE

There are several tools that your dentist uses to assess the condition of your teeth and your overall oral health. The goals of preventative dental care include preventing problems from occurring and catching issues early so they can be treated before worsening. Dental x-rays can help with the goals of preventative dental care. Teeth x-rays are tools that provide your dentist with a clear picture of what is going on with your teeth, jaw, and structures in your mouth.

What is a Dental X-Ray?

What is a dental x-ray? What do dental x-rays show? It is always a good idea to learn about the procedures that your dentist recommends. Dental x-rays – also known as radiographs – provide your dentist with a deeper look at your teeth than is possible with the naked eye. There are multiple types of dental x-rays, and they all provide a unique look at your teeth and bones. Dental x-rays can help your dentist detect issues like cavities, gum disease, tumors, cysts, infections, and abscesses even before their presence is evident at the surface level.

Why Do Dentists Need to Perform X-Rays?

What is the goal of dental x-rays? Why do dentists push x-rays as part of preventative care? Any teeth x-ray procedure aims to gain access to information that is not visible during a routine clinical examination. Your dentist uses information from the x-rays to diagnose disease, catch cavities while they are small, examine the extent of damage to your teeth, and make sure everything is developing properly in children and adolescents. There is only so much that a clinical examination can reveal about your teeth. To provide the best preventative dental care, your dentist will use imaging from time to time.  

What Problems Can Dental X-Rays Detect?

Dental x-rays help dentists detect many common and easily treatable oral health issues. In addition, dental x-rays provide information to dentists about a patient’s risk for more serious and potentially life-threatening conditions. Early detection of these problems can help you avoid pain, minimize further damage to your teeth, and potentially save your life. Some of the common and more serious problems that dental x-rays detect include:

Types of Dental X-Rays

There are multiple types of radiography in dentistry. Each type of x-ray has unique features. For example, the nature of the image, clarity of the image, area that the image captures, and the level of radiation are all factors that can vary between the types of x-rays. The experience of the patient will also vary depending on the type of x-ray. When it is time to describe the procedure for preparing a patient for dental imaging, the dentist, hygienist, or x-ray tech must know the nuances between the various types of x-rays. Types of x-rays you may encounter as a patient include:

Bitewing X-Rays – Bitewing x-rays are positioned in your mouth and held down by biting on a tab that is connected to the device. The imaging that bitewing x-rays can show includes the condition of your teeth above the gum line and the height of the bone between the teeth. These x-rays can be used to detect cavities that are not visible to the naked eye. In addition, measuring the height of the bone helps your dentist determine if you have gum recession due to periodontal disease. The frequency of bitewing x-rays can vary depending on your history of cavities and gum disease.

Periapical X-Rays – A periapical x-ray is designed to provide imaging of a specific area in your mouth. Your dentist can recommend a periapical x-ray if you are experiencing pain in your mouth to determine the underlying cause.

Panoramic X-Rays – A panoramic x-ray is designed to provide a single image of your entire mouth, including your teeth, jaw, and surrounding structures.  

Tomograms – A tomogram is a type of image named for the way that the image was obtained. Tomography provides cross-sectional images (slices) that can be combined to provide a detailed and complete picture for your dentist to examine.

Cephalometric Projections – Cephalometric projections provide side views of the skull and are used to get images that can help your dentist determine if you need orthodontic intervention.

Sialogram – A sialogram is an x-ray designed to provide images of the salivary ducts and glands.

Dental Computed Tomography (CT) – Dental computed tomography provides high-quality and detailed images with a lower radiation rate than previous CT modalities.

Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CT) – A cone-beam CT is a 3-dimensional x-ray that uses a combination of features to provide advanced images of soft tissue, bone, muscle, and blood vessels. The technologies that are used to generate these images include rotating x-ray equipment and a digital computer. This type of imaging technology is often recommended when more in-depth imaging is needed to diagnose or determine the appropriate treatment.

Digital Imaging – What is digital x-ray dental imaging? Digital x-rays can be used to provide high-quality images without using silver and chemicals that were traditionally needed to develop X-rays. This reduces the impact on the environment.

Dental X-Ray Procedure: Preparing a Patient for Dental Imaging

To describe the procedure for preparing a patient for dental imaging, the dental professional must first be clear on the type of x-ray the patient needs. The x-rays outlined above each have a specific procedure and process. For example, a full set of bitewing x-rays will involve repositioning your mouth several times to get the images while a panoramic x-ray requires you to remain in one position the entire time. A few steps need to take place for most types of x-rays to prepare a patient. These steps include checking with female patients about a potential pregnancy, having patients remove jewelry in the area that needs an x-ray, and providing patients with protective gear such as a lead vest.   

Are There Any Risks of Having a Dental X-Ray?

Any time you have an x-ray, you get exposed to a small level of radiation. As a result, some people experience concern about dental x-ray cancer risk. In the past, before experts understood the impact of radiation, x-rays were used much less judiciously than they are today. X-ray technologies have improved, and the level of radiation you are exposed to during a dental x-ray is low, especially compared to the x-ray technologies of the past. In addition, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) have collaborated to come up with detailed guidelines on the use of dental x-rays. The potential risks of radiation exposure are carefully considered against the diagnostic value of dental x-rays.

How Much Do Dental X-rays Cost?

How much do dental x-rays cost? This is a simple question that has a complex answer. The type of dental x-ray you need will have a direct impact on the cost. Panoramic dental x-ray cost is different than the cost for a bitewing x-ray. Panoramic x-ray cost is typically higher than the cost of a batwing x-ray. The equipment needed for the x-ray and the type of imaging that is produced both impact cost. Insurance reimbursement is another factor that will impact the cost. Dental insurance policies may cover the cost of dental x-rays but have specific parameters in place. For example, your insurance policy may allow for a bitewing x-ray every two years and a panoramic x-ray every five years. To get a clear understanding of the cost of dental x-rays, you need to talk to your dentist and your dental insurance provider.

How Do I Choose a Dentist for a Dental X-Ray?

Providing dental x-rays is a small part of the services that a high-quality dentist will provide. If you are looking for a dentist who can provide you with dental x-rays, start by looking for a dentist who meets a basic set of criteria. The first factor to consider is location. Choose a dentist who is conveniently located so you can make it to your preventative dental appointments. The second factor to consider is the services that a dentist offers. You already know that you want a dentist who provides x-rays – what other services do you need? Other important criteria to consider as you look for a dentist are patient reviews, costs, and insurance coverage.

Find Where to Get a Dental X-Ray Near You

Where do I go to get a dental x-ray near me? Is there a dental x-ray clinic near me that I can afford? Finding a place to get a dental x-ray near you starts with finding the right dentist. The Smile Generation offers a free tool designed to connect patients with a local trusted dentist. The Find a Dentist Tool allows you to search by location, service type, language, and whether or not the dentist accepts new patients. In addition, you can read reviews from real patients and get information about flexible financing solutions through ‘my smile dental plan.’ The Smile Generation is your one-stop shop for finding a dentist that is a good fit for you.