Digital radiography (digital X-ray) is the technology we use to take dental X-rays.  This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of X-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image.  This image can be viewed on the computer screen and enlarged, helping the dentist  detect problems more easily.  Digital X-rays reduce radiation 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays.

Dental X-rays are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam.  Dentists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan.  Without X-rays, problem areas can go undetected.

Dental X-rays may reveal:

  • Abscesses or cysts.
  • Bone loss.
  • Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
  • Decay between the teeth.
  • Developmental abnormalities.
  • Poor tooth and root positions.
  • Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.

Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!

Are dental X-rays safe?

We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment.  Digital X-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays.  Because of this, digital X-rays are better for the health and safety of the patient.  Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop a film, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.

Even though digital X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation.  These precautions include only taking those X-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.

How often should dental X-rays be taken?

The need for dental X-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs.  Your dentist will recommend necessary X-rays based upon the review of your medical and dental history, a dental exam, signs and symptoms, your age, and risk of disease.

Panoramic X-rays show a view of all the teeth and both jaws.  They are used to detect or monitor problems in the bone, with wisdom teeth, and with the temporal mandibular joint (TMJ).  We usually take these every 3-5 years.  Periapical X-rays are taken to view detail at the root tip of a tooth.  These are especially necessary when an abcess is suspected, but also very valuable when following periodontal disease.  Bitewing X-rays are those that help to show us decay between teeth or under existing restorations.  Depending on your individual risk assessment for disease, these may be taken every 12-36 months.