Dental X-rays (or x-rays) are images of the teeth that dentists use to assess a patient's oral health. These images are taken with low levels of radiation and provide a lot of detail, allowing dentists to identify issues such as cavities, impacted teeth, and abnormalities in the surrounding bone structure. X-rays also help dentists monitor the overall health of the teeth and jaw. A periapical X-ray, often referred to as PA, is a complete picture of the tooth from the crown to the tip of the root.
This type of X-ray is usually taken when symptoms occur in a specific tooth or as a follow-up to a procedure. Digital X-rays are starting to replace traditional flat film X-rays due to their ease of use, efficiency, and reduced radiation exposure. Children may need dental X-rays more often than adults because their dentists may need to monitor the growth of their permanent teeth. If a dental hygienist cleans your teeth, the dentist can review the X-ray results with you after the cleaning is finished.
Other people who do not have recent dental or gum diseases and who have scheduled ongoing visits with their dentist may only need X-rays every two years. Panoramic radiography is a two-dimensional (2D) dental X-ray examination that captures the entire mouth in a single image, including the teeth, upper and lower jaws, and surrounding structures and tissues. This type of X-ray uses a very small dose of ionizing radiation and is projected through the patient onto a film or detector that rotates in the opposite direction of the X-ray tube. Advances in dentistry have improved safety controls on X-ray machines, lead-coated full-body aprons, high-speed x-rays, and limited radiation beams to small areas.
Having regular dental X-rays is an important part of overall oral health, just like brushing and flossing your teeth. The first visit's X-rays are also used to compare them with subsequent X-rays taken over time to detect problems and unexpected changes.