Types of dental x-rays
Bite wing x-rays
Bite wing x-rays are used as part of general dental check-ups. They are most commonly used to look for tooth decay and examine the level of bone around the teeth.
Your dentist will advise you how often these should be taken. This is usually based on how well you care for your teeth, your risk of developing tooth decay and/or gum disease, any current signs of disease and the status of your past dental treatment.
An example of a bite wing x-ray. Getty Images.
A periapical x-ray is used to view an entire tooth, including the root(s) of the tooth and the bone surrounding it.
Some situations where your dentist may ask to take a periapical x-ray include if you have a sore tooth, before removing a tooth, or before, during and after recent dental root canal treatment. Your dentist will ask for your consent to take periapical x-rays and should explain the reason they are needed.
An example of a periapical x-ray. Getty Images.
A panoramic x-ray, which you may hear your dentist refer to as a ‘full-mouth x-ray’. This type of dental x-ray includes a view of the temporomandibular (jaw) joints (TMJ), eye sockets, maxillary sinuses, bones of the maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) jaws and all the teeth. Full-mouth dental x-rays allow dentists to:
- Detect conditions such as cysts, tumours, and infections.
- Assess the severity of gum disease.
- Assess the stages of tooth development in children.
- Review the development and location of wisdom teeth.
- View how close the teeth sit to nerves, maxillary sinuses, and other facial structures.
- Make plans for dental procedures.
These x-rays provide a good overall view of your mouth. Your dentist may also ask to take additional x-rays of areas of the mouth they need to inspect closer.
Generally, full-mouth x-rays are not recommended as the main x-ray to be used for detecting tooth decay.
An example panoramic x-ray. Getty Images.
Lateral cephalometric x-ray
A lateral cephalometric x-ray is used to capture a side-on view of your head and neck. This x-ray, together with a full-mouth x-ray, are routinely used in planning orthodontic treatment.
An example lateral cephalogmetic x-ray. Getty Images.
Cone beam computerised tomography
Cone-beam computerised tomography (CBCT) is used to create a three-dimensional (3-D) image of your teeth, jaws and surrounding facial structures. It may be referred to in short as a CBCT.
These x-rays are commonly used by dentists and dental specialists when planning more complex treatments.
Not all dental practices will have the equipment to take all the above-listed types of x-rays. Where necessary, you may be provided with a referral to an x-ray clinic that has the necessary equipment to take the required x-ray.
What kind of x-ray is right for me?
The kind of x-ray that's right for you depends the reason the x-ray is being taken and what your dentist may be looking for.
If you have any questions about dental x-rays, be sure to ask your dentist. They can help you to understand the benefits and risks of dental x-rays and how they are used to care for your oral health.