Why You Need Dental X-rays


Digital dental x-rays have a significantly lower level of radiation, compared to traditional dental radiographs. That's good news for everyone!

There are three methods of acquiring digital dental images: the direct method, indirect method and semi-direct. The difference is in an electronic sensor that used in a direct method to get an image. The digital sensor allows avoiding the use of x-ray film, minimizing the amount of radiation.

Types of digital dental x-rays

Digital dental x-rays can be taken inside(intraoral) or outside(extraoral) of your mouth. Intraoral dental x-rays are the most commonly used x-ray in dentistry. They provide great details and used to detect dental cavities (tooth decay), the health of your teeth, bone and soft tissue.

Extraoral digital ray machine does not provide the same depths of details as intraoral x-rays and is used to monitor the overall oral health of your mouth. This x-ray can help to monitor TMJ (temporomandibular joints, detect impacted teeth (wisdom teeth), identify potential problems between teeth or check jaw bones and facial bone structure.


Types of intraoral X-rays include:

  • Bitewing X-rays are taken with the patient biting down on the sensor. It shows details of the upper and lower teeth in the specific area of the mouth. Each bitewing shows a tooth from its top to the bone. Bitewing X-rays are used to detect dental problems such as tooth decay between teeth and any changes in bone density caused by gum disease. Bitewing digital x-ray is also necessary to determine the fit of a dental crown or restorations.

  • Periapical or limited X-rays show the whole tooth from the crown to the root tips. Periapical X-rays are used to detect root structure and bone structure abnormalities. This digital x-ray can show bone loss around the tooth, detect conditions such as periodontitis, advanced gum disease, and detecting endodontic lesions (abscess).

Types of extraoral X-rays include:

  • Panoramic (Panorex) X-rays requires a machine that rotates around the head and shows the entire mouth, including all the teeth in the upper and lower arch, in one digital image. Panoramic X-rays allow treatment planning for dental implants, able to detect impacted wisdom teeth and jaw problems and also diagnose bony tumours and cysts.

  • Cephalometric x-ray shows the entire head and helps examine teeth in relation to a patient’s jaw and a person's facial profile. Invisalign orthodontic treatment requires cephalometric x-ray during treatment planning.

  • Cone beam computerized tomography (CBCT) shows the body’s interior structures as a 3D-dimensional image. CBCT — often performed in a hospital or imaging center and is used to identify facial bone problems, such as tumours or fractures. CBCT scans also used to evaluate bone density for dental implant placement.

The advantage of digital x-rays is superior image quality and the ability to control image contrast, unlike traditional x-rays. This allows our Burlington dentist, Dr. Alexandra Zemskova for more precise diagnostics and reducing the amount of x-rays retakes.

At our Burlington dentist office, we only use digital x-rays. Our latest equipment allows us to provide you with the best that dentistry technology has to offer and minimize unnecessary exposure.

Radiation exposure levels measured in a millisievert (mSv). During our dental exam you can expect 0.038 Msv from a Bitewing X-rays, and 0.150 from a full mouth PAN x-ray. It is hard to give those numbers any meaning without comparing it to other types of x-rays:

Chest X-ray - .080

Lowe Gastrointestinal track - 4.06

Radiation from space - 0.510 (a year)

Naturally occurring radiation - 3.00 (per year)