Dental X-rays, Do I Need Them?

Dental X-rays, Do I Need Them?

Orthopantomography (OPG)

Dental x-rays are radiographic images of your teeth and/or jaw which help your dentist diagnose problems otherwise not detected by a visual examination. They can help in the diagnosis of decay, impacted or missing teeth, gum disease, cysts, cancer, and other uncommon oral conditions.
Periapical x-rays

Who should have them and how often?


As a new patient coming to dental surgery, your dentist most likely will take x-rays of your teeth to get an overall picture of your dental health.  If you have not had a dental examination for a number of years, sometimes a number of x-rays would be needed.  Kids also need x-rays to check for decay,  make sure all teeth are developing correctly, and there is no growth abnormalities.  If you are seeing your dentist regularly and have good oral hygiene, generally speaking, a set of bitewing x-rays would be taken every 2 years or so.

What are the common types of dental x-rays?

Periapical x-rays

These are excellent overall radiographs of your entire mouth, they show all the teeth, including the roots as well as the upper and lower jaw.  So they are good for detecting impacted wisdom teeth, cysts, any pathology around the roots.  However, they are not accurate enough to detect a dental cavity unless it’s already fairly large. They are commonly taken for an orthodontic reason when you present as a new patient or every 5-6 years when your dentist wants to check the overall health of the oral cavity.


These are the most common dental x-rays, they are used to check for cavities between your teeth or under existing fillings.  However, the roots of the teeth are not shown.

They are commonly used in root canal treatment, also to check the health/shape of the roots of teeth, especially before complex treatment such as a crown, bridge, extractions, etc. Often problems can present as a prominent shadow around a tooth root.

Radiation risk

The amount of radiation needed for dental x-rays is extremely low and is equivalent to the sort of exposure you would receive on a 1-2 hour flight, according to the Australian Dental Association.  Even if you are pregnant, it is still safe to have dental x-rays, although we would keep this to a minimum during this period.  Patients often ask why the dental staff would go out of the room when x-rays are taken, that is because they take multiple x-rays all day long rather than once or twice a year for the average patient.

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