Dental X-rays are 2D images that highlight the bones and tooth anatomy in your mouth below the surface of your gums and enamel. There are two types of dental X-rays: film and digital. Digital is replacing film, as it has done in many other technologies, as it emits approximately 80% less radiation than film X-rays, is a quicker process, and is easy to archive.
Dental X-rays can either be intra-oral X-rays, which involve taking the X-ray image from inside the mouth, or extra-oral X-rays, which are taken outside of the mouth, generally around the jaw area. Intra-oral X-rays show fine details in the teeth and their supporting bones that allow your dentist to identify cavities, tooth development, root health, and the tooth’s anchoring to the jaw bone. Extra-oral X-rays focus more on the larger structural bones of your head, specifically your upper and lower jaw. These images help dentists identify issues such as impacted teeth, monitor jaw joint health and development, and see fractures or breaks clearly.
Dental X-rays are essential in helping dentists identify hidden tooth decay, plaque and tartar buildup, and potential root rot, among other things. Finding these issues as early as possible is essential in implementing an effective treatment plan that can get rid of them. Without dental X-rays, problems that are not immediately visible could go undiagnosed and could get progressively worse, leading to worse problems that are harder to treat and, in some cases, can be extremely threatening to your overall health.
If you are in good oral health and your dentist does not believe you have dental issues that need close monitoring, you will likely only receive a set of dental X-rays once every 24 to 36 months. That being said, each set of X-rays ordered by a dentist is done so on a case by case basis to ensure that you are receiving the dental care that’s best for you. If you have dental issues such as, cavities, tooth root problems, gum disease, gingivitis, or concerns about your jaw, you will receive the amount of dental X-rays that your dentist deems necessary to keep your oral health in tip-top shape.