Why Do You Need Dental X-Rays?

Have you ever wondered why x-rays are needed during your regular dental visits? X-rays are essential tools in dentistry because they help us see things we cannot otherwise detect. They provide a clear image of hard tissue structures like teeth, bone, and jaw joints.

This allows us to identify problems such as cavities, tooth decay, fractures, cysts, tumors, impacted wisdom teeth, root canal infection, gum disease, and many others.

A Deeper Look

X-rays consist of images captured using high-energy electromagnetic waves. These waves bounce off objects and penetrate soft tissues like the ones found inside our mouths. When they hit something denser than air—like tooth enamel or bone—they scatter and reflect away from each other. By measuring how much energy is scattered we can learn about what’s behind those surfaces.

Soft, low-density tissue like our skin and organs cannot easily absorb this radiation. So most of it passes through without interacting with anything. But harder materials, like the bony parts of our jaws, can absorb some of the radiation. As a result, we see dark spots where there are no softer tissues.

This process is used every day at the dental office. Your dentist takes an x-ray of your jawbone and uses it to detect cavities and other problems. The x-ray sensor measures the amount of energy absorbed by different regions of the jaw. Then, based on how much energy is absorbed, the system turns these measurements into an image.

Do I really need dental x-rays every year?

Today, the American Dental Association recommends that healthy adults with no major apparent dental problems only need to get x-rays about every 2-3 years.

The most common types of x-rays include:

  • Intraoral – Also known as digital radiography, intraoral x-rays are taken using special sensors placed directly over the patient’s gums. These images show internal tissues such as the soft palate, sinuses, cheekbones, tongue, and throat.
  • Periapical – Also called periapical, apical x-rays are taken near the roots of the teeth. They reveal the bone surrounding the roots and the space where the nerves enter the jaws.
  • Panoramic – A panoramic x-ray provides a large view of the entire mouth. It’s often used to examine the relationship between the maxilla (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw), as well as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
  • Bitewing – A bitewing x-ray reveals the upper and lower portions of the teeth, including the occlusal surfaces, and the biting surface.

The top benefits of dental x-rays

Monitor for bone loss – Periodontal disease causes bone resorption, or bone loss, which leads to tooth loosening. This makes it harder for you to chew food properly and increases the risk of infection. Bone loss occurs slowly over many years, but there are ways to detect early signs of periodontal disease and prevent further damage. The best way to check for bone loss is by taking an x-ray to visually see changes below your gums.

Check for decay under fillings – Decay happens when bacteria eats away at tooth enamel, causing it to weaken. One of the best ways to check for decay under fillings is to take an x-ray.

Look for infection at the tip of the root – When infected tissue grows near the tip of a tooth, it causes swelling that makes it difficult to see things clearly. But an x-ray can help detect early signs of infection.

Visit All in the Family Dental for Routine Dental Care

All in the Family Dental in Evansville, IN can take care of all your dental needs, from basic cleanings to restorative dentistry. For all your dental needs, you can count on our dental experts to properly diagnose them and coordinate the right treatment plan.