Dental X-rays are often part of a regular dental checkup. Learn how they help your dentist to monitor your oral health.
By Krisha McCoy, MS | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Depending on your oral health history and your dentist’s preferences, you will probably need to have dental X-rays taken from time to time. Dental X-rays allow your dentist to more closely monitor the health of your teeth and gums, so that changes and problems can be detected early, when treatment is most effective.
What Are Dental X-rays?
Dental X-rays are special images that allow your dentist to get a closer look at some of the structures inside your mouth, including your teeth, the roots of your teeth, your bite, and your facial bones.
The process involves placing an X-ray film in a piece of cardboard or plastic, which your dentist will ask you to bite down on to hold the film against the area he or she wants the X-ray to capture. Depending on how many angles or areas of your mouth your dentist wants to see on X-ray, this may be repeated several times. While the X-ray pictures are being captured, you will wear a protective apron to shield your body from the X-ray machine’s radiation.
Your dentist may use dental X-rays to look for:
- Tooth decay, also called cavities or caries, between your teeth or under your fillings
- Infections in the bones of your mouth
- Symptoms of gum (periodontal) disease
- An abscess, cyst, or tumor in your mouth
- Changes in your teeth or bones
- Problems with the ligaments that hold your teeth in place
- Dental developmental problems (in children)
- The location of an impacted or unerupted tooth (a tooth stuck in your gum tissue or bone)
Who Should Get Dental X-rays?
If you’re seeing a particular dentist for the first time, there’s a good chance that he or she will want to take a set of dental X-rays, unless you can provide the dentist with copies of recent X-rays. Your dentist will use these initial X-rays to evaluate your oral