Why are dental x-rays so important?

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You might have wondered why your dentist always takes an x-ray of your teeth before making a final diagnosis and beginning treatment. I mean, the dentist is right there looking straight inside your mouth. Isn’t that enough? Why go to all the trouble of taking an x-ray every time a new problem is suspected?

Wearing that heavy apron and holding an uncomfortable device in your mouth for your dentist to take an x-ray isn’t much fun. We get it. But not getting an x-ray done and having to endure unnecessary pain (when easily preventable) doesn’t sound too enjoyable either.

Dental disease is not always visible to the naked eye. You might have a cavity on the side of the tooth or between teeth, a cracked tooth, or an infection in the bone surrounding the teeth that could lead to potentially serious complications. These areas are practically impossible to be detected without a radiographic examination.

Here’s an interesting fact: 80% of tooth decay happens between teeth. If you don’t get an x-ray done, you’re ignoring 80% of your potential oral health problems!

So to make sure that your dentist doesn’t overlook any signs of disease with their bare eyes, x-rays must be taken as part of a routine dental check-up. And what’s more, sometimes x-rays can help your dentist detect a problem even before you have begun to develop symptoms.

Treating problems before they become serious can save you a lot of time, money, pain, and sometimes even your life! The doctors Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer at Periodontal Associates strive to ensure that disease is detected as early as possible to provide you with the best treatment outcomes. Call now at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton) to book your appointment today!

What kinds of dental x-rays are there?

There are many different kinds of x-rays that your dentist can recommend. Dental x-rays are broadly classified as intra-oral (taken with the x-ray film placed inside your mouth) and extra-oral (with the film placed outside your mouth).

Intra-oral x-rays detect problems within your oral cavity.

Types of intra-oral x-rays Drs Heller,  Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer might take:

Bitewing x-ray: Bitewings x-rays are a great diagnostic tool to detect any decay between teeth or below the gumline. Additionally, they also help determine the proper fit of restorations like crowns, bridges, etc., and can evaluate changes in bone thickness usually caused by gum disease.

They allow the upper and lower teeth along with their surrounding bone, to be examined together in one x-ray.

This is what a bitewing x-ray looks like


Periapical x-ray: If your dentist wants to get a more detailed view of a single tooth or teeth in either the upper or lower jaw, a periapical x-ray might be a better option. It allows the complete tooth to be seen with utmost clarity from the crown to its root and includes the surrounding jaw bone.

This type of x-ray is more commonly employed to diagnose root problems, bone loss subsequent to gum disease, and infections spreading into the jaw bone due to infected root canals.

A periapical x-ray


Occlusal x-ray: Occlusal x-rays allow dentists to get a better look at the floor and roof of the mouth. This helps them track tooth development and placement in an entire arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw. By reading an occlusal x-ray, your dentist can detect several abnormalities. These include unerupted or supernumerary teeth, cleft palate, fractures, and even some abscesses.


An occlusal x-ray


Extra-oral x-rays are used to diagnose dental problems in the jaw and skull. Types of extra-oral x-rays are listed below:

Panoramic x-ray: A panoramic x-ray gives your dentist the complete 2-D view of your mouth. It captures all teeth in both your upper and lower arches. It is a very common type of x-ray that dentists usually take to prepare for major dental treatments, such as orthodontic treatment. A panoramic x-ray can also detect certain jaw tumors, cysts, and impacted teeth.

A panoramic x-ray

Cephalometric projections: This type of x-ray shows the side-view of the face and allows the teeth to be viewed with reference to the jaw and profile of the individual. It is more commonly used in the diagnosis and treatment of orthodontic problems.                


A lateral cephalogram


Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) scan: This type of x-ray is superior to the rest as it provides a 3-D view of both hard and soft tissues, including dental structures, soft tissue, nerves, and bone. It is especially beneficial in the diagnosis of cysts and tumors in both the mouth and face. It helps with the guidance of implant tooth placement, detects problems in tooth roots and gums, and assists with the diagnosis of jaw disease.

A cbct image

MRI Imaging: An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is ideal for the evaluation of soft tissue structures. It takes a 3-D view of the oral cavity and includes both the teeth and jaw.

MRI views of the face

If you would like to know more about the types of different kinds of dental x-rays, please feel free to contact us at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton). Drs. Heller, Beckman, Thousand and Hyer would be more than happy to guide you!

What kinds of problems can x-rays help detect?

X-rays can help diagnose a lot of problems, even some that haven’t started showing symptoms yet. Here’s a list of some of them:

  • Tooth decay, especially in hidden areas between your teeth
  • Secondary tooth decay, beneath existing dental restorations
  • Changes in bone thickness
  • Infection spreading to the bone due to infected root canals
  • Changes in root canals due to tooth decay
  • Determines the position of teeth to help assist implant placement, dentures, crowns, and bridges, etc.
  • Dental abscesses
  • Cysts and tumors
  • Impacted teeth

If you have any queries regarding dental x-rays, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)795-4500 (Littleton). Doctors Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer look forward to guiding and assisting you throughout your experience!