Dental X-ray

Dental X-ray

Dental X-rays are a type of imaging that our dentist at Woodard Family Dentistry uses to see detailed images of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues in the mouth. These images help dentists diagnose and treat various dental issues that are not visible during a regular dental examination. Here's a more detailed look at what dental X-rays are and how they work:

How Dental X-Rays Work

Dental X-rays use a small amount of radiation to create images of the internal structures of the mouth. The X-ray machine emits a controlled beam of radiation, which passes through the mouth and is absorbed at different rates by different types of tissues. Dense tissues, like teeth and bones, absorb more radiation and appear lighter on the X-ray film or digital sensor, while softer tissues, like gums and cheeks, absorb less and appear darker. 

The Importance of Dental X-Rays

Dental X-rays are an invaluable tool in the field of dentistry. They enable dentists to see the condition of your teeth, roots, jaw placement, and facial bone composition. Here are some of the key reasons why dental X-rays are so important:

Early Detection of Dental Problems

Dental X-rays help in the early detection of several dental issues, including:

  • Tooth decay: X-rays can reveal cavities that are not visible during a regular dental exam.
  • Gum disease: X-rays can show the extent of bone loss due to gum disease.
  • Infections: X-rays can identify infections in the root of the tooth or between teeth.
  • Developmental issues: X-rays can help monitor the growth and development of teeth in children and detect any potential issues early.

Planning and Monitoring Treatment

X-rays are crucial for planning and monitoring various dental treatments, such as:

  • Orthodontic treatment: X-rays are used to plan and monitor the progress of braces and other orthodontic treatments.
  • Dental implants: X-rays help determine the precise placement of dental implants.
  • Root canals: X-rays guide the dentist during root canal procedures and ensure that all the infected material is removed.

Assessing Overall Oral Health

Regular dental X-rays are essential for maintaining overall oral health. They provide a comprehensive view of your mouth and help in identifying any changes or abnormalities over time.

Types of Dental X-Rays

There are several types of dental X-rays, each serving a specific purpose. At Woodard Family Dentistry, Dr. Christopher S. Woodard uses the most appropriate type of X-ray based on your individual needs. Here are the most common types of dental X-rays:

Intraoral X-Rays

Intraoral X-rays are the most common type and are taken inside the mouth. They provide a high level of detail and are used to detect various dental issues. The main types of intraoral X-rays include:

  • Bitewing X-rays: These X-rays show the upper and lower back teeth in a single view. They are used to detect cavities between teeth and monitor the fit of dental restorations.
  • Periapical X-rays: These X-rays show the entire tooth, from the crown to the root. They are used to detect problems with the tooth root and surrounding bone structures.
  • Occlusal X-rays: These X-rays capture the entire arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw. They are used to detect issues like impacted teeth, jaw fractures, and cysts.

Extraoral X-Rays

Extraoral X-rays are taken outside the mouth and provide a broader view of the teeth and jaw. They are used to detect issues that affect the jaw and skull. The main types of extraoral X-rays include:

  • Panoramic X-rays: These X-rays provide a comprehensive view of the entire mouth, including all the teeth, upper and lower jaws, and surrounding structures. They are used to detect impacted teeth, tumors, and jaw disorders.
  • Cephalometric X-rays: These X-rays show the side view of the head and are used primarily in orthodontics to assess the relationship between the teeth and the jaw.

How How Dental X-Rays Are Used

Dental X-rays work by passing controlled amounts of radiation through the body to create images of the teeth and surrounding structures. The X-ray machine emits a beam of radiation, which passes through the soft tissues (like gums and cheeks) and is absorbed by the denser structures (like teeth and bones). This absorption creates an image on the X-ray film or digital sensor, highlighting any abnormalities or issues.

Here's a step-by-step overview of how dental X-rays are taken:

  1. Preparation: You may be asked to wear a lead apron to protect the rest of your body from radiation. If you have any metal objects (like jewelry), you'll need to remove them.
  2. Positioning: The dental professional will position you correctly in the chair and place the X-ray film or digital sensor in your mouth.
  3. Exposure: The X-ray machine will emit a brief burst of radiation, which passes through your mouth and is captured on the film or sensor.
  4. Processing: If traditional film is used, it will be developed to create the X-ray image. Digital X-rays are processed instantly by a computer and displayed on a computer screen. Call us to learn more.

Safety of Dental X-Rays

One of the most common concerns about dental X-rays is radiation exposure. While it's true that X-rays involve radiation, the amount used in dental X-rays is extremely low. Modern dental X-ray equipment and techniques are designed to minimize exposure and ensure patient safety. Here are some key points about the safety of dental X-rays:

Low Radiation Levels

Dental X-rays use very low levels of radiation. For example, a single bitewing X-ray exposes you to about 0.005 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation, which is equivalent to the amount of radiation you're exposed to during a short airplane flight. The cumulative exposure from regular dental X-rays is minimal and far outweighed by the benefits of early detection and treatment of dental issues.

Protective Measures

At Woodard Family Dentistry, we take several measures to ensure your safety during dental X-rays:

  • Lead apron: Wearing a lead apron protects your body from unnecessary radiation exposure.
  • Thyroid collar: A thyroid collar is an additional protective measure to shield your thyroid gland from radiation.
  • Digital X-rays: Digital X-rays systems use up to 90% less radiation exposure than the radiation used by traditional film X-rays.

Professional Guidelines

The American Dental Association (ADA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provide guidelines for the use of dental X-rays to ensure they are used appropriately and safely. Dr. Christopher S. Woodard follows these guidelines to minimize radiation exposure and ensure that X-rays are only taken when necessary.


Dental X-rays are a vital tool in modern dentistry, enabling early detection and treatment of dental issues, planning and monitoring of treatments, and ensuring overall oral health. At Woodard Family Dentistry in Spokane Valley, WA, Dr. Christopher S. Woodard, DMD, and his team use advanced X-ray technology to provide safe, accurate, and comprehensive dental care.

By understanding the importance of dental X-rays, their types, how they work, and their safety measures, you can feel confident in the care you receive at Woodard Family Dentistry. Regular dental checkups, including X-rays when necessary, are essential for maintaining a healthy, beautiful smile. Schedule your appointment today and experience the difference that expert dental care can make in your life.

Are you ready to experience top-quality dental care for your entire family? Visit Dr. Christopher S. Woodard, DMD, at Woodard Family Dentistry, conveniently located at 1020 S Pines Rd, Spokane Valley, WA 99206. Don't wait any longer to take care of your oral health. Call us today at (509) 924-8585 to schedule your appointment or to learn more about our comprehensive dental services.

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