All About Different Kinds Of Dental X-Rays

Dental X-rays can find problems in your mouth, teeth, gums, and jaw before they get too bad. Taking care of problems before they get worse can save money, pain, and even your life.

What Are Dental X-Rays And Why Do You Need Them?

Getting an X-ray at the dentist may not be high on your favorite things. Even for a few seconds, it’s not fun to wear that heavy apron and hold a sometimes uncomfortable tool between your teeth.

But X-rays show a lot to dentists. X-rays show how your teeth, roots, jaw, and facial bones are made up and how they are in shape. They also help them find and treat problems with their teeth when they are young.

X-rays are energy that can pass through solid objects or be taken in by them. This energy is taken in by hard tissues like teeth and bones, and shows up as light-colored spots on an X-ray. X-rays can pass through less dense things like gums and cheeks, which show up on X-ray film as dark spots.

X-rays can help find problems that can’t be seen by just looking at the teeth. If you find and fix problems before they worsen, you might save money, avoid pain , and maybe even save your life.

What Kinds Of Issues Can Dental X-rays Find?

Your dentist can find out what’s wrong with your teeth and jaws with the help of Dental X-rays.

Dental X-rays of adults show:

  • Decay, especially in small spots between the teeth.
  • Decay under the fillings.
  • Loss of jaw bone.
  • Changes in the bone or root canal.
  • The condition and position of your teeth can help you get ready for tooth implants, braces, dentures, or other dental work.
  • Abscesses (an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth).
  • Some types of cysts and tumors.

What Are The Different Kinds Of X-rays For The Teeth?

There are two main types of dental X-rays: intraoral, in which the X-ray film is placed inside the mouth, and extraoral (the X-ray film is outside the mouth).

The most common kind of dental X-ray is one that is taken inside the mouth. Intraoral X-rays come in a few different kinds. Each one shows something different about teeth.The types of Intraoral X-Rays are:


Bitewing X-rays show details of the upper and lower teeth in one part of the mouth. Each bitewing shows a tooth from its crown, the visible part, to the level of the bone that supports it. Bitewing X-rays can find cavities between teeth and gum disease-related changes in the thickness of bone. Bitewing X-rays can also help determine if a crown (a cap that goes all the way around a tooth) or other restorations (such as bridges) will fit right. It can also see if dental fillings are wearing out or falling apart.


Periapical X-rays show the whole tooth, from the top, where the crown is, to the bottom, where the root meets the jaw. Each periapical X-ray shows all the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw in one section. Periapical X-rays look for strange changes in the root and bone structures around it.


Occlusal X-rays show how a whole arch of teeth in the upper or lower jaw grows and fits together.X-rays taken outside the mouth are used to find dental problems in the jaw and head. There are different kinds of X-rays done outside the mouth.

On a single X-ray, a panoramic view of the mouth shows all the teeth in both the upper and lower jaws. This X-ray can find the position of both fully grown and growing teeth, see impacted teeth, and help determine what’s wrong with a tumor.

Tomograms only show a certain layer or “slice” of the mouth. Other layers are blurred out. This X-ray looks at structures that are hard to see because other structures block them.


In cephalometric projections, a whole side of the head is shown. This X-ray looks at the teeth and their fit with the jaw and the person’s profile. Orthodontists use this X-ray to figure out the best way to move each patient’s teeth.


Sialogram involves injecting a dye into the salivary glands so they can be seen on X-ray film. Salivary glands are soft tissue, so an X-ray would not show them. Dentists may order this test to check for problems with the salivary glands, like blockages or Sjogren’s syndrome .


Dental computed tomography (CT) is a way to look at the inside of things in three dimensions (three dimensions). This type of imaging is used to find problems like cysts, tumors, and fractures in the bones of the face.

Cone Beam Computed Tomography

Cone beam CT is an X-ray that makes 3-D pictures of bone, soft tissue, nerves, and dental structures. It helps plan the placement of tooth implants and checks for cysts and tumors in the mouth and face. It can also see problems with the gums, tooth roots, and jaws. In some ways, cone beam CT is the same as regular CT. They both make accurate images and are of high quality. But there are differences in how pictures are taken. The cone beam CT machine spins around the patient’s head, taking all the data in one turn. In a traditional CT scan, the machine goes around the patient’s head several times, taking “flat slices” of the head each time. Patients also get more radiation when this method is used. One of its best features is that cone beam CT can be used in a dentist’s office. The only places with dental computed CT equipment are hospitals and imaging centers.

2-D dental imaging

Digital imaging is 2-D dental imaging that lets pictures go straight from a camera to a computer. The images can be seen on-screen, saved, or printed in a few seconds. Digital imaging has more benefits than traditional X-rays in many other ways. For example, a picture of a tooth can be improved and made bigger. This makes it easier for your dentist to see even the smallest changes that can’t be seen during an oral exam. Also, if needed, images can be sent electronically to another dentist or specialist for a second opinion or a new dentist. X-rays also use more radiation than digital imaging does.

MRI imaging is a way to get a 3-D picture of the mouth, including the jaw and teeth. 

How Often Should X-rays Be Taken Off Teeth?

How often you need X-rays depends on your medical and dental history and how you are right now. Some people might need an X-ray every six months. Some people may only need X-rays every couple of years if they haven’t had tooth or gum disease in the last few years and have regular visits with their dentist. At the first visit for a new patient, X-rays may be taken. First-visit X-rays are compared with older X-rays to look for problems and changes that don’t make sense. People who are more likely to have dental problems may need to get X-rays more often. Among these people are:

  • Children usually need more X-rays because their teeth and jaws are still growing, and their teeth are more likely to have cavities than adults.
  • Adults who have had a lot of work done to their teeth, like fillings: To look for decay under fillings or in new places.
  • People who drink a lot of sugary drinks should have their teeth checked for cavities.

People With Gum Disease

People with dry mouth, whether because of medications (like antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, antihistamines, and others) or health problems (like Sjogren’s syndrome, damaged salivary glands, or radiation treatment to the head and neck), can drink water to help keep their mouths moist. When your mouth is dry, cavities can form. For smokers, keep an eye on the bone loss caused by gum disease (smokers are at increased risk of gum disease).Yo can visit our dental clinic for the best dental X-ray related diagnostic procedures.

Village Family Dental

Author: Village Family Dental

Dr. Paul Hung of Village Family Dental - Dentist in Duncanville has been serving in and around Dallas for more than a few years now. Read more