Why do I need to have dental x-rays (radiographs) taken and how often?

Dental radiographs provide a critical insight into dental conditions that would otherwise be impossible because they allow the dentist examine areas not always visible to the naked eye, such as areas beneath existing fillings or the spaces between teeth. They also allow the dentist to see below the enamel surface of teeth and assist in locating areas of decay and to check bone levels surrounding the teeth.

There are various types of dental radiographs used in dentistry for different purposes.

Bitewing radiographs are used for screening the crowns of the teeth and top part of the gums for signs of diseases such as decay and gum disease. This type of radiographs are generally taken routinely, often on a two-yearly basis, but may be needed more regularly.

Periapical radiographs are often used to diagnose the cause of tooth pain. These allow the length of the tooth to be seen, from top to tip of the root. This type of radiograph is also used during root canal treatment or prior to an extraction. This type of radiograph is taken as needed.

An OPG (orthopantomograph) is a large radiographic film which shows the entire mouth including details of the teeth, gums, jaws and sinuses. This may be recommended as a screening tool during a young person’s growth, to help determine the presence and positions of adult teeth developing within the jaws, as well as the presence or absence of wisdom teeth.

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