The Importance of Dental X-rays (Radiographs)

At our office, we use digital x-rays (radiographs) to help evaluate your oral health.

There are 3 more common types of x-rays (radiographs) that we use to help us identify various issues:


  1. Bitewing x-rays (BW’s). On the x-ray, the bottom and top teeth
    re present.  The x-ray shows us a close-up view of the teeth, which helps the Dentist identify the presence of cavities between teeth. BW’s will also show the existence of gum disease and bone loss. Another benefit of the BW x-ray is that the Dentist is able to identify any changes in bone level from year to year.
  2. Periapical x-rays (PA’S). These show the whole tooth (all the way to the end of the root, which is under the gums and cannot be seen by looking visually in the mouth). They are used when a patient has a concern in a particular area of the mouth or a specific tooth
    that is painful. PA’s show the presence of an abscess (an infection at the very tip of the root of a tooth). It can also show bone levels and cavities, though not as clearly as BW’s.
  3. Panorex x-rays (Pan). These show the Dentist a lot of information, as it takes an x-ray of half of the face. The x-ray shows the upper and lower jaw, with all the teeth that are present in and out of the gums. It gives the Dentist an idea of how the wisdom teeth will erupt into the mouth: if there is enough room for them to come in or if they will need to be removed, due to the teeth impacted. Other things that can be seen on a Pan are the sinuses, bone levels, TMJ joints (temporomandibular joint), infections, and tumours. Essentially, Pan gives a good overall picture of the mouth. From there, if more detail is required, we can take other radiographs that will provide more detail.

Taking x-rays provides your Dentist a general baseline of your oral health. It is important to have x-rays (BW’s and PA’s) done at least once a year so that we can see if changes have occurred.  Using these x-rays, we can detect cavities in the early stages, which is also more cost effective, as the longer cavities are left undetected, the more expensive and extensive treatment may be.  X-rays are a necessary tool to help dentists diagnose your concern accurately and come up with appropriate treatment for you, rather than just looking into your mouth. They also help detect gum disease, oral infections (abscesses) and some types of tumors.

X-ray machines have come a long way! Now, they have very low radiation exposure, and as an added protection, we provide you with a lead apron to protect your chest, abdomen, and thyroid.  Of note, it is still VERY important to inform the dental team if you are or may be pregnant. If this is the case, you will want to wait to have the x-rays taken, unless it concerns an infection that puts you and your baby at risk.

This should help explain why dental x-rays are necessary when it comes to your oral health. If you have any other questions about this topic, please don’t hesitate to ask questions at your next visit.

Braeside Dental Centre


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