Dental X-ray are pictures of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues around them to help find problems with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. X-ray pictures can show cavities, hidden dental structures (such as wisdom tooth), and bone loss that cannot be seen during a visual examination. Dental X-rays may also be done as follow-up after dental treatments.
Why It Is Done
Dental X-rays are done to:
Find problems in the mouth such as tooth decay, damage to the bones supporting the teeth, and dental injuries (such as broken tooth roots). Dental X-rays are often done to find these problems early, before any symptoms are present.
Find teeth that are not in the right place or do not break through the gum properly. Teeth that are too crowded to break through the gums are called impacted.
Find cysts, solid growths (tumors), or abscesses.
Check for the location of permanent teeth growing in the jaw in children who still have their primary (or baby) teeth.
Plan treatment for large or extensive cavities, root canal surgery, placement of dental implants, and difficult tooth removals.
Plan treatment of teeth that are not lined up straight (orthodontic treatment).
Without X-rays, dentists may miss the early stages of decay between teeth.
How To Prepare?
Before the X-ray test, tell your doctor if you are or might be pregnant. Dental X-rays are only done on your mouth area, but if you are pregnant, routine dental X-rays may be postponed so you do not have any radiation to your baby (fetus). If dental X-rays are absolutely needed, a lead apron will be placed over your belly to shield your baby from the X-rays.
You do not need to do anything else before having a dental X-ray.
How It Is Done?
Dental X-rays are taken in the dentist's office. The X-ray pictures are read by your dentist.
A dental technician will cover you with a heavy lead apron as you sit upright in a chair. This apron shields your body from X-rays. Modern lead aprons have a collar (called a thyroid shield) to shield the thyroid gland from radiation.
Everyone else in the room wears a protective apron or stays behind a protective shield.
The dental technician will have you bite down on a small piece of cardboard or plastic. The cardboard or plastic holds X-ray film. You may do this several times to get pictures of all your teeth. Some X-ray machines have a camera that circles your head and takes pictures of your teeth while you sit or stand.
You may want to rinse your mouth before and after the X-rays.
How It Feels?
X-rays take only a few minutes and are not painful.
Some people may gag on the plastic or cardboard that holds the X-ray film. People often find it easier to relax if they focus on something else (such as an object on the wall) and take slow, deep breaths through their nose during the X-rays.