X-rays show what is happening inside and around the tooth and it’s roots – any decay or gum disease, bone loss, and, in children, how the jaw is growing too.
There are two types of x-ray commonly used. A ‘bite-wing’ x-ray is gripped between your teeth and shows the areas in between the teeth but not the roots. A ‘peri-apical’ x-ray is placed next to the tooth and shows the whole of the tooth and its root.
There are also large x-rays which show all of the jaw and teeth – these are called panoramic x-rays and the x-ray machine moves around your head while you stand still.
Your x-ray examination will be carried out by your dentist. Training ensures safety as well as x-rays which are clear to read. All x-rays taken for health reasons entail a small radiation risk but the dental radiation dose is very low. If you are concerned about safety it may be helpful to know that:
- Your dentist will only take x-rays if they are needed
- X-ray machines are checked regularly to ensure that they are using only the intended radiation dose.
- There is no reason not to use dental x-rays during pregnancy (although you might still be asked whether you are pregnant or whether you might be, and whether you would rather not have an x-ray).
When the x-ray is taken:
- You will need to keep very still for a few seconds to give a clear picture.
- The film is usually developed while you wait and then labelled.
- Sometimes it is useful for the dentist to compare a new x-ray with one taken some time ago. Your dentist will keep your old x-rays in your file.
The benefits of x-rays:
All forms of dental treatment rely on dental x-rays. Simply looking in your mouth cannot give the dentist as much information.
X-rays allow old treatment to be reviewed as well as new problems to be identified.