When talking about x-rays or any type of radiation, most people get worried if it does more harm than good. In a dental setting, radiographs are a common test used for diagnosing and visualizing dental problems. There are several types of radiographs used in dentistry, and the following are just a few more commonly used types in the dental office.

Bitewing Radiographs
Bitewing radiographs take images only the crowns (the part of the tooth you can see in the mouth) of both the upper and lower teeth together. This radiograph is extremely useful for checking for decay in between the teeth where it is not easily seen just by looking in the mouth.


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Periapical radiographs
If you’re having some pain from a toothache, this radiograph is very helpful to see signs of infection, and may be able to help visualise the source of infection such as decay or from the gum tissues. It enables dentists to have the full view of the tooth including its root and surrounding structures. It is also commonly taken during root canal treatment to help us see the root canal anatomy and ensure the correct root lengths are treated.


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Dental Panormic radiograph
This type of radiograph, commonly known as OPG or DPT is a panoramic radiograph, showing all structures in the mouth simultaneously. It is very useful to give a general idea of gum health as well as to see wisdom teeth or structures surrounding such as the nasal sinuses and nerve canals.


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Lateral cephalogram
This is a radiograph commonly used prior to or during orthodontic treatment such as during braces treatment. It enables the lateral imposition and hence ability to analyse things such as jaw relationships and angle, tooth relationships and proclinations as well as the soft tissue profile. Often drawings may be done on this radiograph in order to accurately measure these angles.


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Other radiographic imaging
Other types of radiographs that may be taken in a dental clinic include a form of 3D imaging called a cone-beam CT. With a lower dose of radiation that a conventional CT scan (computerized tomography), it enables the visualization of the 3 dimensional structures, especially useful for implant procedures to avoid important structures like nerve canals, and even certain wisdom teeth extraction surgeries where nerve damage may be likely.

In conclusion, radiographs can be very useful for diagnosis and enables treatment to be more easily executed. However, it should be used with caution especially in expecting mothers, and young children as radiation damage may have a greater impact in developing children. It should not be too frequently used in healthy adults as well unless the diagnostic value is high, and in general should be taken only once in 2-5 years for general dental health monitoring.

If you have any doubts about taking a radiograph during a dental visit, it is good to always clarify if a radiograph is absolutely necessary with your dentist.