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    Dental Visits Decoded: X-Rays

    If you’ve been to the dentist, you’ve probably had an X-ray. Dentists typically use the images to take a closer look at your teeth and bones, to better investigate dental issues that are hard to see with the naked eye. 

    X-rays use small amounts of radiation to capture these images. Although the amount of radiation used is miniscule, your dentist should still take precautions to block unnecessary radiation, such as covering your body with a lead collar or apron. [1] The dentist should only order those images that are essential for an accurate diagnosis of problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.
    The type of X-ray you get depends on what your dentist is trying to view.
    Bitewing X-rays help show the areas between your teeth. You’ll be asked to bite down on a piece of plastic that holds the film against your upper and lower teeth, giving your dentist a closer look at those nooks and crannies. [2]
    Panoramic X-rays show a broad view of your entire mouth, helping your dentist see wisdom tooth growth, bone levels and hardened plaque. You’ll be asked to bite down on a “bite blocker” that helps keep your teeth aligned for the X-rays, and then a rotating arm on the machine will make a semi-circle around your head to record images from all angles. [3]
    Periapical X-Rays let your dentist see an entire tooth, including the roots and surrounding bone structure.[4] You hold this X-ray film in your mouth by biting firmly on a device that looks like a metal rod with a ring attached to it.
    A Full Mouth Survey is a complete set of X-rays that cover your entire mouth, using a combination of the X-ray methods above.[5]
    Whether you need a quick bitewing or a more extensive full mouth survey, feel free to ask your dentist questions about the procedure and what he can see from the X-ray.