Why Dental X-Rays Are So Important

What We Can Learn From Dental X-rays

When you or your child visit our dentist in Newport Beach for the first time, we’ll likely take a variety of dental x-rays. With these films, we can see the internal structure of your mouth like the bone, the roots of your teeth, and their nerve tissue.

Radiographs are especially helpful for diagnosing dental conditions that we can’t see with the naked eye. For example, if you’re experiencing pain and we don’t see any problems by looking in your mouth, dental x-rays will reveal if there’s an infection brewing under the surface.

There are four varieties of x-rays that we use, which include bitewings, periapicals (PAs), a panorex/panoramic, or a dental cat-scan. Each kind of radiograph serves a different purpose and allows us to properly diagnose specific dental conditions. Below is a breakdown of what each film consists of and why we would need that specific image.

Bitewing X-Rays


Brushing your teeth eliminates most of the plaque and tartar buildup that’s on your smile. However, the bristles can’t get between your teeth and remove the debris there. This is why our dentist in Newport Beach always encourages patients to floss daily. If not removed, the food particles that are left behind will begin to decay your enamel, meaning you’ll have to undergo dental treatment to get it removed.

Since we can’t see what’s going on between your teeth by simply looking in your mouth, we rely on bitewing x-rays to reveal this area during your exam. As a general rule, we take this series of radiographs once per year during one of your bi-annually dental cleanings.

Getting these films taken is quick and easy. In small children, we can capture everything we need to see by just taking two x-rays. In adults, we take four images. This particular radiograph shows the body of the tooth structure but nothing underneath the gumline.

Periapical Films

If we suspect that you have a dental issue that lies further down in your tooth, then we’ll take a periapical x-ray to show us the entire anatomy of the tooth, including the pulp and nerve canals, as well as the roots and bone surrounding it.

If we’re dealing with an abscessed tooth, this film will reveal a dark shadow at the end of the root. In addition to helping us diagnose your condition, a periapical will give us the information we need to determine which course of treatment is best.  For example, if there’s enough healthy tooth structure left and the nerve anatomy within your tooth is typical, then we’ll likely recommend you have root canal therapy to repair it.  However, if your dental x-rays reveal that there is too much tooth gone, then an extraction will be needed.

Evaluating the roots of the tooth will help us determine whether or not you should go to an oral surgeon to have a tooth removed. If the roots are large and curved, or if there are main nerves running through the area then for your safety, you may be referred out to a specialist.

A Panorex (“Pano”)

When your child gets to a certain age, we’ll need to see if their teeth are set to come in properly. To help us with this evaluation, we’ll take a panorex x-ray which is a 2-dimensional image that shows us the internal anatomy from the nose to the chin, all the way back to the TMJ.

Panorex x-rays are also great for seeing wisdom teeth, which are often hard to x-ray using other methods. In addition, these images will reveal any tumors, cysts, sinus infections, or bone fractures.

Dental Cat-Scan

A dental cat-scan shows us everything that a panorex does but in much greater detail because the image is 3-dimensional. If you’re considering dental implants, we can use this image to measure the amount of space there is in the bone, determine its density, and decide if implants are a viable option for you. During implant placement, the cat-scan aides us in ensuring proper positioning.

This 3-D image is also helpful during root canal therapy and extractions, because we can see the exact shape of the tooth’s nerves and roots.  As a result, root canals become more successful, and extractions are easier to perform.

Trust Our Smile Team

Dr. Yazdan, our dentist in Newport Beach, uses the latest in digital x-ray technology to accurately diagnose and treat your dental conditions.  When you’re a patient of ours, your health is our priority. Using state-of-the-art equipment allows us to ensure that we’re doing everything we possibly can for your smile and health.

If you’ve been looking for a new dentist in Newport Beach, then now is the time to come and see us. Call to schedule an appointment today!

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