How do dental x-rays work?

Types of dental x-rays

Digital x-rays

We seek to render the most professional care consistent with the "state of the art" as current standards apply to dentistry. We share your concern about x-rays and we take every precaution to minimize them. Among these safeguards:

  • Every patient, male or female, old or young is draped with a lead radiation apron before any x-ray is taken.
  • We try to postpone all x-rays with women who are or might conceivably be pregnant. The one exception is with absolute emergencies - and then only with the consent of her obstetrician.
  • Digital x-ray sensors are used. Radiation is minimized because less time is required for exposure.
  • Check up x-rays are taken only where indicated and under the following schedule:
    • 1. Decay prone or periodontal problems: Every 6 months.
      2. No new pathology for 18 months: Every 12 months.
      3. Full mouth survey: Every 5 years or as indicated.

There has never been a single instance reported in the dental or scientific literature of a patient contracting a malignancy because of dental x-rays.

The amount of radiation received from dental machines is as little as one twentieth of the power of a medical x-ray machine. Another major difference with dental x-rays is that there is literally no scatter x-rays - therefore a dental office wall does not have to be lead lined as a medical wall must be. Yet, the benefits to be derived from necessary dental x-rays are far greater than the hazards. If we missed finding a tumor which could destroy half a jaw bone or missed decay which could develop into a nine hundred dollar root canal and crown treatment, would you feel that your refusal to have x-rays was realistic? Most people feel that such a real saving in health or economic costs is worth it. Remember also that the amount of radiation you receive from a session of dental x-rays is about the same that you would receive from the cosmic x-rays that you get during a flight at high altitude across the United States.

Radiation comes to us from natural sources too. We breathe radioactive radon in the atmosphere. We're exposed to cosmic radiation from space and terrestrial radiation from radioactive isotopes in stone and building materials. In addition to natural radiation we get radiation from tobacco smoke, watches with luminous dials, color television sets and computer screens.

A complete dental exam gives about one and half day's worth of radiation exposure.

How do dental x-rays work?

When X-rays pass through your mouth during a dental exam, more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums) before striking the film. This creates an image on the radiograph. Teeth appear lighter because fewer X-rays penetrate to reach the film. Cavities and gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these X-rays allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

Types of dental x-rays -

Full series - Taken to view all teeth and surrounding tissues. Very high definition details of the individual teeth.



Bitewing - Taken to view back teeth and specifically to view between the teeth (an area that cannot be checked visually) and the bone (periodontal) levels. A bitewing series is used to update a recent full series on a regular schedule that is appropriate for each patient.



Panoramic - Complete upper and lower jaw. Good for impacted teeth, eruption of permanent teeth, jaw fractures, tumors, cysts, etc. Not as good as full series for the details of individual teeth.

In this panoramic x-ray of a 7 year old the forming permanent teeth can be viewed. The light gray on the extreme right and left is the spine.


In this example of a panoramic the developing wisdom teeth (3rd molars) can be observed in this 16 year old.



Cephalometric- side view of the head, used most commonly for orthodontic determinations of treatment.

Note - The soft tissues of the face are specially enhanced so as to be able to determine the changes to profile that orthodontic therapy will alter.


Other types - There are specialized films taken for surgery, orthodontics and implant placement.

Digital x-rays


We have replaced the traditional x-rays with the latest in technology !!!

Two of the things you'll first notice are.........


1. The x-ray image appears on the computer screen INSTANTLY.

2. The image is large and very easy to see and understand.
Other benefits to this new technology......

Less Radiation:Digital X-ray provide an 80% reduction in radiation since the exposure time is reduced dramatically.
Magnified Images:Digital X-rays are easily displayed at larger sizes. We are even able to magnify the image to show you close up any areas of concern.
Earth Friendly: Digital X-rays are electronic so they save us from needing to use harsh chemicals which are no longer disposed of in the sink.
Insurance Processing: Electronic submission of insurance claims is much faster.

With digital x-rays, a sensor replaces the film normally used for traditional x-rays. The sensor plugs into the USB port on an ordinary computer and are solid-state electronic devices called "charged-coupled devices" (CCD). CCD's used in our dental imaging is essentially the same as the CCD's used in digital cameras.

X-rays are an important part of your dental visit, because they help us diagnose problems we can't see on the surface. Digital X-rays are just one way we are working to make your visits better.

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Our Office

Dr. Maury Hafernik
11645 Angus Road, Suite 10
Austin, Texas 78759
P: (512) 345-5552

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