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Dental X-rays: Why your dentist takes them.

Updated: Dec 18, 2018


Dentists use x-rays for many reasons; they help the dentist to visualise parts of the teeth and surrounding tissues that cannot be seen with a simple oral exam.  Things that they are looking for include bone loss, cavities, malignant and benign masses and potential periodontal disease.

In an x-ray, teeth appear lighter because less radiation penetrates them.  Dental decay, infection and other changes in the bone density, appear darker becasue x-rays readily penetrate these less dense structures.  Dental restorations such as fillings and crowns may appear lighter or darker depending on the density of the material used.

It is possible for both tooth decay and periodontal disease to be missed during a clinical exam, unless x-rays are used as a comprehensive part of your oral examination.

X-rays help your dentist find and treat dental problems early in their development, which can potentially save you money and unnecessary discomfort.

In adults, dental x-rays can be used to:

  • Show areas of decay that may not be visible with an oral exam, especially small areas of decay between teeth

  • Identify decay occuring beneath an existing filling

  • Reveal bone loss that accompanies gum disease

  • Reveal changes in the bone or in the root canal resulting from infection

  • Assist in the preparation of tooth implants, braces, dentures, or other dental procedures

  • Reveal an abscess (an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth)

In children, dental x-rays are used to:

  • Watch for decay

  • Check if there is enough space in the mouth to fit all incoming teeth

  • Check if baby teeth are being lost quickly enough to allow permanent teeth to come in properly

  • Check for the development of wisdom teeth and identify if the teeth are impacted (unable to emerge through the gums) 

How often should teeth be x-rayed?

The frequency of getting x-rays of your teeth will depend on your medical and dental history and current condition.  Some people may need x-rays as often as every six months; others with no recent dental problem or gum disease and who visit their dentist regularly may get x-rays only every couple of years.

If you are a new patient with us here at College Street Dental Centre, your dentist will take x-rays as part of the initial exam to establish a baseline record from which to compare changes that may occur over time.

If you think that it's been a while since you last had an x-ray, do mention this to your dentist next time you come to us for your checkup.  Please feel free to contact us on 01730 263180 for more information or email us on

For further information or advice contact College Street Dental Centre in Petersfield, Hampshire on 01730 263180


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