What are the different types of dental x-rays?

A bite x-ray is used to look at a specific area of the mouth. The dentist may order one or more bite x-rays during the checkup. Each bite captures the exposed (visible) part of the upper and lower teeth, as well as half of the roots and the supporting bone. Bite x-rays help dentists detect cavities, especially between the teeth.

They also help dentists detect changes in the jaw caused by gum disease. Panoramic x-rays, like panoramic photographs, are used to take pictures of the entire area of the mouth. It shows the position of fully emerged, emerging and impacted teeth, all in a single image. Occlusal x-rays help track the development and location of an entire section or arch of the teeth in the upper or lower jaw.

Pediatric dentists use them primarily to find children's teeth that haven't yet been broken through the gums. There are two main types of x-rays used in dentistry. These include intraoral x-rays and extra-oral x-rays. Intraoral x-rays refer to the time when the x-ray film is in the mouth.

Extraoral x-rays have a film outside of the mouth. For many people with few or no dental problems, an x-ray every two or three years is sufficient to monitor their oral health. In some dental offices, new patients must take dental x-rays during their first exam to assess the health of their teeth. According to MedlinePlus, the amount of radiation that these types of x-rays are exposed to is much lower than that of a traditional x-ray.

If you're concerned, there are ways your dentist can minimize radiation exposure from dental x-rays. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it's up to the dentist or health care provider to decide when a patient needs a dental x-ray. Occlusal x-rays reveal additional teeth, jaw fractures, cleft palate, cysts, dental abscesses, or growths. Dental x-rays require very low levels of radiation exposure, and are therefore considered safe for both children and adults.

Many parents are concerned that dental x-rays may adversely affect children because they are more sensitive to radiation. Dental x-rays help dentists visualize diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissue that cannot be seen with a simple oral exam. If you're going to see a new dentist, you'll likely have a dental x-ray on your first visit to the dentist's office. Dental x-rays allow general dentists and other health care providers to check the condition of teeth, roots, jaw location, and facial bone structure.

Exposure to all sources of radiation, such as the sun, minerals in the earth, household appliances and dental x-rays, can damage tissues and cells in the body and cause the development of cancer.