Photo Op: Types Of Dental Radiographs

EVERYONE WHO’S BEEN TO THE DENTIST is familiar with radiographs (aka X-rays). You put on the lead apron, you’re given a rectangular contraption and told “put this between your teeth and bite down,” and then you hear that tiny beep. Have you ever wondered what the different types of dental radiographs are and what they’re for? Let’s take a closer look at three of the most common ones.
The Big Picture: Panoramic Radiograph
Has a radiologic technologist ever had you stand on a circular platform and stand still for several seconds while the machine spun around your head? Then you’ve had a panoramic image taken, the most common type of extraoral dental radiograph.
With these, we can see your entire mouth in one image, because the camera travels all the way around your head while taking the picture. These radiographs show incoming adult teeth and wisdom teeth, including any that are impacted, which is how we determine if there’s enough room for these teeth to come in and if they’ll come in on their own. While they don’t give the detailed information for seeing smaller cavities, panoramic radiographs also make it much easier to detect things like tumors, cysts, and abscesses.
Glamour Shots: Bitewing Radiographs
As you might have guessed from the name, bitewing radiographs are the ones where the patient has to bite down on a piece of dental film before the image is taken. Because the dental sensor (or film) is inside your mouth, bitewing radiographs are a type of intraoral radiograph. Usually, there will be one to two radiographs taken for each side of your mouth.
Bitewing radiographs are taken to give us a clear view of the crevices between your teeth, which are difficult to see with the naked eye. With these images, we can easily check for tooth decay and cavities in those areas. Because of this, we sometimes refer to them as "flossing radiographs"!
It’s Time For Your Close-Up: Periapical Radiographs
The prefix peri- means "around" and the suffix -apical is referring to a root tip. Hence, this type of intraoral radiograph is the close-up of the dental world showing everything from the root tip to the biting surface of a tooth. If a specific tooth or area in your mouth is bothering you, we’ll likely take a periapical radiograph to get a clear idea of what’s going on there, but they can also be taken alongside bitewing radiographs even if you aren’t aware of an obvious tooth problem.
For more information on dental radiographs and why they’re so important, watch the video below: