If you’ve ever been to the dentist, you’ve probably experienced them: X-rays. We all know that, in everyday language, X-rays take pictures of your teeth, but what actually are dental X-rays? Good question! That’s what we’re going to take a look at today.
Another name for X-rays is radiographs. X-rays use electromagnetic waves of energy (like visible light or ultraviolet light). The energy waves pass through soft tissues like the skin or gums but get absorbed by denser materials like bones or teeth. The different levels of absorption show up on the X-ray film as dark and light patterns, basically mapping out the density levels of all the tissues in your mouth.
When cavities begin to develop, the acids and bacteria soften and weaken the enamel. The soft spots in the enamel show up on the X-ray film as darker than the surrounding area, thus allowing your dentist to address areas that may not be easily visible or catching weak spots that are not full-fledged cavities yet.
X-rays can be taken from inside the mouth—intraoral—or outside the mouth—extraoral. Intraoral X-rays typically provide details on the state of the teeth, teeth roots, and gums, helping substantially with general maintenance and oral health. Extraoral X-rays, on the other hand, help with issues such as showing impacted teeth, revealing tumors or cysts, and determining implant placement.
X-rays may seem like a small part of your routine check-up, but do know that they are very important!