X-rays show what is happening inside and around the tooth and its roots. They will show any decay or gum disease, bone loss, and, in children, how the jaw is growing too.

There are two types of X-rays dentists will use. You grip a 'bitewing' x-ray between your teeth and it shows in the areas in between the tooth but not the roots. A 'periapical' x-ray is placed next to the tooth and shows the whole tooth and its root.

There are also large X-rays that show all of the jaw and teeth. These are called panoramic x-rays and the x-ray machine moves around your head while you stand still.

What happens?

All trained members of staff are entitled to take the x-rays, as well as the dentists. There is a small risk of radiation in x-rays that are taken for health reasons but dental x-ray radiation is very low.

If you are concerned about safety, it may be helpful to know that:

  • Your dentist will only take X-rays if they are needed;
  • X-ray machines are checked regularly to make sure they are only using the intended radiation dose; and
  • You can still have dental X-rays when you are pregnant (your dentist may still ask you whether you are pregnant or whether you might be, and whether you would rather not have an X-ray)

When the x-ray is taken:

  • You will need to keep very still for a few seconds to give a clear picture;
  • The film is usually developed while you wait and then labeled; and
  • Sometimes it is useful for the dentist to compare a new x-ray with one taken some time ago. Your dentist will keep old X-rays in your file.

What are the benefits?

  • All forms of dental treatment rely on dental X-rays. Simply looking in your mouth cannot give the dentist that much information.
  • They allow dentists to review old treatments as well as identify new problems.