Dental x-rays

There are two types of dental x-rays; intraoral and extraoral.

Intraoral (meaning 'inside the mouth') are probably what you think of when hearing the term dental x-ray.  A film is placed inside the mouth in order to take the radiograph.  There are three types of intraoral x-ray.

Did you know..?

A bit of salt on the tip of the tongue stops you from gagging.  Sometimes when we take an intraoral x-ray, the position of what we put in the mouth can trigger the gag reflex.  We've tried the salt trick and it works – at least for long enough to take an x-ray. It temporarily confuses the nerves in the mouth.

Bite wing x-rays show the upper and lower teeth, in the posterior areas of the mouth, looking at the areas above the bone from the top to the supporting bone. They are used to detect decay between the teeth, any ledges or leakage under fillings and crowns in these areas and to identify the bone levels between the teeth.

Periapical x-ray show the whole tooth including the crown, the root within the bone and the supporting structures.

Occlusal x-rays show the roof or floor of the mouth, a large part of the dental arch.  They are used to identify teeth that may be buried.  These x-rays are used less since the availability of low dose CBCT 3D images (more on this below).

Extraoral x-rays

You may think that if a dentist tells you that you need to have an x-ray, that it will be taken inside your mouth.  However, as part of your treatment or diagnosis of what treatment is suitable for you, you may need extraoral x-rays.  These are x-rays that are taken outside of the mouth.  Here, we explain more about these and what we use them for.

What are extraoral x-rays used for?

Extraoral x-rays detect dental problems in the jaw and skull.

They are also used for orthodontics, endodontics / root canals, and other oral surgeries.

And they can also be used for implant patients as the dentist can use the cross-sectional template to visualize slice-by-slice distances for the most precise measurements during implant planning.

Clinic 95 use the Carestream 3D Extraoral imaging machine to take the following types of Extraoral digital images:

  • Digital imaging is a type of dental imaging that allows images to be sent directly to a computer. The images can be viewed on screen, stored, or printed out in a matter of seconds. Digital imaging has several other advantages compared with traditional x-rays. The image taken of a tooth, for example, can be enhanced and enlarged. This makes it easier for your dentist to see the tiniest changes that can’t be seen in an oral exam. Also, if necessary, images can be sent electronically to another dentist or specialist for a second opinion or to a new dentist (eg. if you move). Digital imaging also uses less radiation than x-rays.
  • Panoramic x-rays (aka OPG) show the entire mouth area, all the teeth in both the upper and lower jaws on a single x-ray. This x-ray detects the position of fully emerged as well as emerging teeth, can see impacted teeth.
  • Lateral Cephalometric projections show an entire side of the head. This x-ray looks at the teeth in relation to the your jaw and profile. Orthodontists use this x-ray to develop the specific teeth realignment approach needed for you.
  • CBCT is a type of x-ray that creates 3-D images of dental structures, soft tissue, nerves, and bone. It helps in planning tooth implant placement. It also can detect problems in the gums, roots of teeth, and jaws. Cone beam CT is similar to regular dental CT in some ways. They both produce accurate and high quality images. However, the way images are taken is different. The cone beam CT machine rotates around your head, capturing all data in one single rotation.

CBCT scan

This stands for cone beam computed technology. It is a medical imaging technique consisting of x-ray computed tomography where the x-rays are divergent, forming a cone.

Combining focused-field 3D technology with dedicated panoramic imaging, it offers the highest resolution images and the lowest radiation dose.

The types of radiograph image that it can produce are

  • View images slice-by-slice in axial, coronal, sagittal, cross-sectional, and oblique views to enhance diagnostic interpretation
  • Images that can be used to accurately and precisely plan implant surgeries
  • DICOM files which can be merged with digital scans of the teeth and jaw in a format known as STL files, allowing more involved planning and on occasions prefabrication of a temporary restoration to be fitted onto the implant on the same day as the implant is placed.


Because this system is available in-house here at Clinic 95, no referrals elsewhere need to be made, saving you time.

The in-house system produces focused field of view and limits radiation to a specific region of interest, so you are exposed to the lowest possible radiation dose.  For example, for a full jaw this equates to background radiation equivalent to that received on a return flight to New York.

X-ray risks

With modern techniques and equipment, risks are kept to a minimum. However, the dentist will always take care to use x-rays only when they need to.

X-rays are usually recommended every 6 to 24 months depending on you, your history of tooth decay, age and the current condition of your mouth.

New patients will be asked when their last dental radiograph was taken to avoid unnecessary duplication and re-exposure.

Dental x-rays during pregnancy

It is important that you let the dentist know if you are pregnant. If you need a dental x-ray the dentist will usually wait until you have had the baby, even though most dental x-rays don't affect the abdomen or pelvic area.  The dentist will assess whether the treatment can wait until you've had your baby. For example, they'll assess whether the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks of having an x-ray.

X-rays during pregnancy carry a very small risk of exposing the unborn baby to radiation, which could cause cancer to develop during his or her childhood. The natural risk of childhood cancer is around 1 in 500.

If you are in any doubt about whether an x-ray is suitable for you, please don't hesitate to contact us for a chat.

X-ray costs

All the pricing details of our full range of dental x-rays are on our treatment costs page.