Dental x-rays

Dental x-rays, or radiographs, are used first of all to establish a diagnosis, and then kept in your file as a reference. Dentists may use either traditional film or digital x-rays.

How often you need dental x-rays depends on your oral health and the treatments you are receiving. Note that dental x-rays expose you to only very small amounts of radiation.

You must always wear a protective lead apron when dental x-rays are taken.

If you don’t know why your dentist wants to take x-rays, feel free to ask.

  • A periapical x-ray shows a group of upper or lower teeth so as to better examine the root, crown and supporting bone structure of the teeth.
  • An interproximal (bitewing) x-ray shows the crowns of the upper and lower teeth; it allows the dentist to detect cavities between the posterior teeth (at the back of your mouth) and evaluate the level of the supporting bone structure.
  • A panoramic x-ray (Panorex) shows all the teeth and adjacent structures.
  • A cephalogram is an x-ray of the skull and jaws, useful in orthodontics to evaluate bone growth and tooth development.

Enlightened advice

Are you pregnant, or you think you might be?

Talk to the dentist or hygienist before they take x-rays. If you change dentists, remember to ask for a copy of the x-rays in your file. That way you may not need to have new ones taken.

Can you refuse
to have x-rays taken?

It is up to the patient to accept or refuse dental x-rays. However, if your dentist feels that they are essential, he or she may refuse to treat you or to carry out a specific treatment.