Things Dental X-Rays Can Find

Things Dental X-Rays Can Find

Dental x-rays are an important part of oral health care. They allow dentists to see beneath the surface of your teeth and gums, and can identify a number of issues that may not be visible to the naked eye during a regular examination. In this blog, we will discuss the different types of dental x-rays, and list some of the issues they can identify.

Dental x-rays use low levels of radiation to produce an image of your teeth and gums. This image allows dentists to assess the health of your jawbone and see inside your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends having dental x-rays 1-2 times a year during your semi-annual dental exam.

woman having dental x-rays taken

There are different types of dental x-rays, including:

Extraoral x-rays:

These are x-rays taken outside of the mouth that show the entire head, and are sometimes called panoramic x-rays. They are used to assess the jawbone, teeth, and surrounding structures, such as the sinuses.

Intraoral x-rays:

These are x-rays of a specific area in the mouth that allow dentists to see inside your teeth in order to evaluate individual teeth, tooth roots, and the surrounding bone. There are different types of intraoral x-rays known as: bitewing, periapical, and occlusal x-rays. 

  • Bitewing x-rays: Bitewing x-rays are taken from the side of your mouth, and allow dentists to see the entire surface of one or more teeth from the crown to its supporting bone.
  • Occlusal x-rays: Occlusal x-rays are taken like bitewing x-rays, but they allow dentists to see an entire arch of the upper or lower teeth. They are used to find teeth that have not erupted yet.

Things Dental X-Rays Can Find

Dental x-rays can identify a number of issues that may not be visible to the naked eye, including:

Tooth decay:

Tooth decay is a common problem, and can often be seen on dental x-rays. Dental x-rays allow dentists to see where the decay is located, and whether or not it has affected the underlying tooth structure. Dental x-rays can also be used to locate hidden areas of decay, such as in between two teeth or under the gums. Finally, dental x-rays can help your dentist identify early signs of decay that may be able to be treated to prevent a cavity from ever forming.

Bone loss:

Bone loss can occur as a result of tooth loss or advanced gum disease (periodontitis). Bone resorption, the process responsible for bone loss, usually begins six months after a tooth is lost and will continue to progress. Dental x-rays can identify areas of bone loss and help dentists to develop a treatment plan that usually includes a bone graft and possibly dental implants.

Impacted wisdom teeth:

cartoon of one tooth giving another tooth an x-ray

Wisdom teeth often become impacted (stuck), and can cause a number of problems if left untreated. They can be partially impacted, meaning that part of the tooth is visible above the gums, or they can be fully impacted, meaning that the entire tooth is stuck below the gums. Impacted wisdom teeth are generally quite painful and should be removed as soon as possible to minimize complications, like infection or cysts that form around impacted wisdom teeth. Dental x-rays can identify impacted wisdom teeth and help to plan for their removal.

Damaged teeth:

Teeth may become damaged as a result of an accident, tooth decay, or other dental problems. However, this damage may not always be immediately visible. This is especially the case if the damage occurs in between the teeth or if there is a tiny fracture in the tooth. Dental x-rays can identify damage to the enamel, dentin, and root of the tooth.

Faulty dental restorations:

Dental restorations, such as fillings and crowns, can sometimes become loose or fall out, especially as they near the end of their lifespan. In some cases, dental restorations can also become leaky or even damaged. Dental x-rays can identify faulty dental restorations and help to plan for their replacement. Dental x-rays can also determine if there is decay under or around the restoration.

In Conclusion:

As you can see dental x-rays are an important part of oral health care. They allow dentists to see problems that may not be visible to the naked eye, and help to plan for their treatment. Dental x-rays can identify a number of issues, including tooth decay, bone loss, impacted wisdom teeth, damaged teeth, and faulty dental restorations. This is why it is recommended to have dental x-rays performed 1-2 times a year at your semi-annual dental appointment.

When was your last dental appointment? If it has been longer than six months, give our office a call today!


Fredrick Farahi, DDS, PC - SmileMclean Dentistry

Fredrick Farahi, DDS, PC

Dr. Fredrick Farahi, a native of Northern Virginia, received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Howard University in Washington D.C. in 1990. Since then, Dr. Farahi’s continuing education has ventured him toward more challenging areas of Dentistry, including Cosmetic Dentistry, Reconstructive Dentistry, and Implant Dentistry. Dr. Farahi is passionate about keeping up with the latest advances in dentistry.