Is it Necessary to Take a Dental X-Ray?

Is it necessary to take a Dental X-Ray?

Dental X-rays… for decades they have developed a terrible reputation – radiation being the biggest concern.

So, you may be wondering, is it really necessary for my Dentist to take a dental x-ray?

The answer to that question is yes – very much so.

What you may not know is the significant benefits of dental x-rays – how they help your Dentist diagnose problems, and most importantly, how they help them see inside your teeth, underneath your gums and in your bones.

In this article, I will advise you when and why it necessary for your Dentist to take an x-ray, how the benefits far outweigh any side-effects, and how the use of radiation in dental x-rays has been unquestionably minimised over the last decade.

So, after reading this you should no longer have any reason for concern and will no longer let fear hold you back from visiting your Dentist!

When and Why is it Necessary to take a Dental X-Ray?

Your Dentist will take a dental x-ray before many of the procedures that they need to perform. This is absolutely necessary so that they can get a proper view of your teeth and gums.

Most importantly, if they are performing an extraction, there are certain surfaces of your teeth and gums that your Dentist can see just by looking at them. However, a whole new world lies beneath.

A dentist looking at a patients dental X-Ray

A dentist looking at a patients Dental X-Ray

Under the gums or in the bones you may have an infection that your Dentist really needs to know about.

We, as people, also all have anatomical structures like our sinus and our nerve vessels, and your Dentist really needs to know where yours are located when they are working inside your mouth. The dental x-ray will give your Dentist the bigger picture as to where everything lies.

You can basically view a dental x-ray as a safety procedure for you, the patient, because your Dentist really, really needs to be able to see where they are going, especially when operating underneath the surface.

Are there any Procedures where an X-Ray is not Required?

Your Dentist will only take an x-ray when they are necessary for their assessment and diagnosis.

Thus, your Dentist generally does not need to x-ray your child, except in special cases such as orthodontic treatment.

In orthodontics, an x-ray is required because your Dentist will need to know exactly how many teeth your child has, the structure of their jaw, the condition of their airway, and so forth.

However, in regular cases, your Dentist knows that your child’s baby teeth are going to fall out. They can see their baby teeth and know if anything is going wrong with them.

Your child’s diet and behaviour will give your Dentist another good guideline as to any issues that are arising, hence why an x-ray is not required.

As for you, if you only have a few teeth, your Dentist can generally see the entire surface of your teeth and gums and so will not need to perform an x-ray – unless once again an extraction is required, then they will x-ray so they can see below the surface.

Are there Different Types of X-Rays?

Yes – dental x-rays are divided into two different categories.

The x-ray your Dentist will perform in the surgery is just a small x-ray – this is the most common type of dental x-ray and is taken when the film is located inside your mouth.

The x-ray itself is only of your mouth and the bones surrounding your teeth. These x-rays let your Dentist;

  • See any cavities
  • Determine the condition of any developing teeth (i.e. adult teeth in children or wisdom teeth in adults)
  • Check if the bone around your teeth are in good condition
  • Look at the roots of your teeth
  • Look further into the health of your gums to determine the cause behind any gum disease
  • Ensure the health of your teeth is kept in check through prevention rather than cure

The big x-rays are called an Orthopantomogram, or OPG for short– this is a machine that travels around your head.

The OPG take takes panoramic x-rays of:

  • Your entire jaws, both upper and lower
  • Your Joints
  • All of your teeth
  • Your sinuses
  • All the nerve vessels in your lower jaw

You may find some dental surgeries have the OPG machine in their clinic and will perform the x-ray there, whereas some Dentists will write you a referral and send you off-site to have the x-ray performed.

A Dental X-Ray called an OPG, or Orthopantomogram

A Dental X-Ray called an Orthopantomogram (OPG) is being used.

They do this because Medibank will cover the costs for it this way, rather than you having to pay for what can be an expensive procedure yourself.

Should I be Concerned about Radiation when it comes to Dental X-Rays?

No need to worry – over the last decade, the risk of radiation when it comes to dental x-rays has been far reduced.

For decades, all forms of x-rays developed a really bad reputation due to radiation concerns, along with other troubles.

These days, with technology having been updated to a form of digital x-rays, the use of radiation in dental x-rays has been reduced by up to 80%.

Modern, digital, and minimised, digital x-rays have been around for the last ten years. They far outweigh the old-style version of x-rays, reducing any risk of harm to you, the patient.

You will still notice the same techniques being used – the walls are lined, you will be asked to wear a lead body apron to cover you up from your neck to your knees, all the same precautions are still taken to prevent you from being exposed to any forms of stray radiation, but the chance of that happening is now far less likely.

Is there Anything else I should do before having a Dental X-Ray?

As mentioned, your Dentist will ask you to wear the lead body apron to prevent you from being exposed to any forms of radiation.

You will also be asked if there is any chance that you could be pregnant – it is quite a well-known fact that nobody likes to take an x-ray on somebody who may be carrying a baby, due to the possible side-effects.

A pregnant lady holding her stomach

It’s a good idea not to have A Dental X-Ray while you are pregnant, but at times it may be unavoidable.

If you travel a lot, and you are going to a new Dentist regularly, you should be aware that you need to have your dental records with you. They are a means of identification for police records, and Dentists’ these days are very conscious of that fact.

Don’t be alarmed – just like your Doctor, your Dentist has a lot of privacy laws as to which they must abide by, so they can’t and won’t just give this information away!

If necessary, your Dentist will act according to the law provided to them by the police and give the information to them, hence why they need to keep this information in a database.

Is there Anything else I should be worried about when it comes to having a Dental X-Ray?

There is absolutely no reason to be concerned when it comes to having a dental x-ray.

The entire process in pain-free – all dental materials and regulations are made in accordance to minimise any harm to the patient.

If you are organic or vegan there is still no need to worry about having a foreign substance in your body – after the Dentist covers you with an apron as a form of precaution, the next step they will take is to ask you to bite down on a small plastic apparatus.

A lady about to have a dental x-ray

A lady preparing to have a Dental X-Ray

This holds the x-ray film in place whilst the technician takes the necessary x-ray pictures with a fast speed film, and that’s it, the procedure is over, and you’re sent home with a smile!


Well, by now you should be pretty clued up on the benefits of dental x-rays – they really are necessary for your safety.

Allowing your Dentist to see below the surface of your teeth, under your gums, into your bones and view your anatomical structure allows them to see exactly what they are working with.

This helps them to assess and diagnose your situation, including being able to notice if you have any cavities, infections or gum disease and prevents any disease from going unnoticed.

We all know that old saying, “Prevention is better than cure”, so ensuring your teeth are kept in good health by beginning treatment for a disease as early as possible can help stop any pain and possible tooth loss. This surely can only be a good thing for you and your mouth!

As for any possible concerns that you may have about radiation that may come from x-rays, there is no need to worry.

In the last decade, the risk of radiation when it comes to dental x-rays has been minimised – the old-school style of dental x-rays have been replaced with the use of new, modern, digital x-rays.

These reduce the risk of any harm to you, whilst still using the same precautions such as lead body aprons to prevent you from being exposed to any forms of stray radiation.

So leave that fear behind and don’t bring it with you when you next visit your dental clinic!

Why do you need a Dental X-Ray?

Andrew Adams

By Andrew Adams

Created at June 18, 2019, Updated at March 06, 2020

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