Dental X-rays are a vital part of a dental examination There are two main types of dental X-rays: those taken with the X-ray film inside the mouth (intraoral) and those taken with the X-ray film outside the mouth (extraoral). Intraoral X-rays are the ones most commonly used. They provide detailed evidence of the growth of developing teeth, the health of tooth roots and surrounding bone, including the jaw. They also help the dentist zero in on any cavities. Extraoral X-rays, while they also show the teeth, primarily focus on the jaw and skull. They are therefore more helpful in diagnosing malocclusions, impacted teeth, a discrepancy in the number of teeth, bony pathology, and possible temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).
Types of Intraoral X-Rays
There are three types of intraoral X-rays. Each type helps the dentist visualize a different aspect of the tooth.
Bite-wing X-rays, named for the fact that the patient bites down on the wing attached to the film, provide details of both the upper and lower teeth in one section of the mouth. Bite-wings are used to detect decay and to evaluate changes in bone density that may result from gum disease. These X-rays are also valuable when the dentist wants to check on the integrity of fillings.
Periapical X-rays focus on fewer teeth, but show each entire tooth, from the crown to the root. They help detect abnormalities of the root or surrounding bone.
Types of Extraoral X-Rays
There are many types of extraoral X-rays. Each has a somewhat different purpose.
These X-rays take images of the whole mouth at once, showing all the upper and lower teeth at one time. Panoramic X-rays show positions of developing, fully erupted, or impacted teeth and are also helpful in diagnosing pathology.