Are Dental X-Rays Safe? - Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

How To Handle Your Child’s Tongue-Tie
March 8, 2019
Dental Concussions and What To Do About Them
March 22, 2019

Photo of smiling male dentist looking at patient's x-ray of teeth

Dental X-rays are useful tools to help your dentist discover damage and disease not visible during a regular exam. They prevent dangerous dental issues and carry little risk through the use of the most advanced 3D digital X-ray technology. An X-ray passes through the soft tissue of the body and is absorbed by dense tissue, such as teeth and bone. Most dental offices utilize dental X-rays to monitor patients’ overall health, check the tooth roots, and look at the bone area around the teeth. Learn which X-rays are used and how they have improved dental issues through this guide!


What Is A Dental X-Ray?

Dental X-rays, or radiographs, are important diagnostic tools for child and adult patients alike. They are mostly used for preventative measures, but are essential for preventing dangerous dental issues that are caused by cavities, diagnosing bone diseases, and assessing trauma. Often, dental damage or decay is not visible to the naked eye, so dental X-rays are used to detect any underlying issues that may be affecting your oral health. Dental X-rays allow dentists to see between and inside of teeth, bone, and the tips of roots. Since some X-rays can look directly into the root, it is much easier to diagnose cysts, abscesses and other masses. The amount and location of wisdom teeth are typically identified through dental X-rays, and any bone loss caused by periodontal disease can be seen with an X-ray, as well. Children typically have more dental X-rays taken of their mouth due to the rapid development of their teeth and jaw, and their increased likelihood of cavities that easily affect their baby teeth.


Types of X-Rays

There are a variety of X-rays that dentists use to view the structure of a patient’s mouth. The type of X-ray used will depend on the needs of the patient and what area of the mouth needs viewing. The most common types of X-rays are as follows:


  • Periapical: Provides a view of the entire tooth from the crown to the bone.
  • Panoramic: Shows a view of the teeth, jaws, nasal area, jaw joints and sinuses. Commonly used for orthodontic patients.
  • Bitewing: Offers a view of both the lower and upper posterior teeth. Used to see how teeth touch each other.
  • Occlusal: Gives a clear view of the floor of the mouth to discover any extra teeth or teeth that have yet to break through the gum line.


To get the best view of a patient’s bone height or root tips, periapical X-rays are typically used. A panoramic X-ray is taken from the outside of the mouth and creates an image of the entire oral cavity. These X-rays are useful for discovering cysts, tumors, jaw disorders, and irregularities, as mentioned previously. Bitewing X-rays are most helpful at determining early tooth decay between teeth, while occlusal X-rays are usually used on children to monitor their developing teeth. Other types of X-rays are available for orthodontic treatment, such as cephalometric X-rays, but are not as commonly used as the others.


Dental X-Ray SafetyMale dental patient having panoramic x-ray taken of mouth

Whenever patients hear the word “X-ray,” they typically think of radiation, which is harmful to the body. The most advanced 3D digital X-ray technology available emits extremely low levels of radiation, and is used by most dental and orthodontic offices. These levels are so small that they run a very low risk of potential harmful effects. More offices are even beginning to implement digital X-rays, which further reduce radiation exposure. Dental X-ray tools and techniques are designed to limit the body’s exposure to radiation and every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (the ALARA principle). To prevent any exposure to radiation, a leaded apron is used to cover the abdominal area and a leaded collar to protect the thyroid. It is important to let your provider know if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, but the leaded apron and collar are sufficient enough to protect you and the fetus, so delay is not necessary.


How Often Do You Need An X-Ray?

How often you need a dental X-ray will depend on your needs and what you dentist deems best to view the areas of your mouth that have any issues. Most new patients will receive a panoramic X-ray so that the dentist can be fully aware of any complications and properly assess your oral health state going forward. As you continue your regular checkups, fewer X-rays are needed and will be done to gauge the improvement of your oral health.


For more questions regarding dental X-rays and what to expect at your or your child’s next appointment, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics at (720) 887-6003! Our experienced team is determined to help you and your child get the best smile possible.