Can You See an Infection on a Dental X-ray?

Benefits of Dental Radiographs

Dental X-rays, also known as radiographs, are images of the teeth that a dentist uses to evaluate a patient’s oral health. Some patients require dental X-rays at every appointment, while others only need them every few years. The frequency in which a patient should receive an X-ray depends on the condition of their oral health, their dental history, and their overall medical history. We might recommend that newer patients receive X-rays as well so that we can understand the bigger picture of their oral health. Dental X-rays use a low level of radiation to capture images of the interior teeth and gums. These systems are quite commonly used to help dentists gain a full understanding of the best next steps for a patient. Some of the benefits of dental radiographs include:

  • Making your dentist aware of changes in the hard and soft tissues
  • Allowing the dentist to see how the teeth and jawbones are developing
  • Helping your dentist identify diseases and developmental issues before they turn into serious health issues
  • Preventing oral damage from worsening
  • Detecting wisdom teeth development and determining the best route for extraction
  • Identifying bone loss, tooth decay, and infections

Types of Dental X-rays

In order to understand the full scale of abilities that a dental X-ray has, it is important to be aware of the different types of dental X-rays. Dental X-rays are categorized into two main types: intraoral X-rays and extraoral X-rays. As the names suggest, intraoral X-rays are taken inside of the mouth and extraoral X-rays are taken outside of the mouth. The most commonly used forms of X-rays within these types are:

  • Periapical X-rays

A periapical X-ray shows the whole tooth, from the crown to beyond the root where the tooth attaches to the jaw. These X-rays are able to show all the teeth in one portion of either the upper or lower jaw. These X-rays are useful for detecting unusual changes in the root and surrounding bone structures.

  • Bitewing X-rays

This type of X-ray is used to look at one specific area of the mouth. A bitewing X-ray captures the visible area of the upper and lower teeth as well as part of the roots and supporting bone. These X-rays help dentists detect decay, particularly decay that occurs between the teeth, as well as irregular developments of the jawbone that are caused by gum disease.

  • Occlusal X-rays

The purpose of an occlusal X-Ray is to show the full tooth development and placement of a patient’s teeth. Each X-Ray shows the full arch of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw. These X-Rays might also be able to detect evidence of tumors or bone loss and blockages in the salivary ducts.

  • Panoramic X-rays

As the name suggests, a panoramic X-Ray shows the entire mouth in one picture. The purpose of this type of X-Ray is not to show details like cavities. Rather, they are meant to show bone abnormalities, fractures, cysts, impacted teeth, infections, and tumors.

What Dental Radiographs Show

As you can see, different conditions will require a different kind of dental x-ray in order to be detected. At Austell Dental Associates, we prioritize performing dental X-rays when it is necessary because they help us see conditions that are invisible to the naked eye. Detecting and diagnosing oral health conditions is important, as oral health issues have become common on a massive scale in the U.S. According to the CDC, more than 40% of adults report having felt pain in their mouths in the last year, and more than 80% of people will have had at least one cavity by age 34. Because oral health conditions are known to impact quality of life and even lead to other issues throughout the body like heart disease, using dental radiographs to detect them is extremely important. Some of the most common oral conditions that the dental team at Austell Dental Associates can detect and diagnose through our dental X-ray technology are:

  • Cavities and tooth decay

This is the most common dental issue, and is caused by a breakdown of the tooth enamel by acids that collect on the teeth. If left untreated, cavities can lead to abscesses under the gums, which can spread to other parts of the body and take a serious toll.

  • Periodontal disease

Gum disease is another common issue, and is mainly the result of infections and inflammation of the gums and the bone that surrounds and supports the teeth. Symptoms of periodontal disease include swollen, red, and tender gums. In order to treat periodontal disease, the tartar on the root of the teeth and under the gum line must be removed.

  • Oral cancer

One of the most important benefits of a dental x-Ray is that it can show whether oral cancer has spread to the jaw. Oral cancer often occurs in patients over the age of 40. Risk factors include tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and HPV. Symptoms tend to include a sore, irritation, or patch in the mouth, a sore throat feeling, difficulty chewing, and difficulty moving the jaw or tongue. If found and treated at an early stage, oral cancer can be cured.

To schedule a teeth cleaning with Austell Dental Associates and receive a dental X-Ray, call us at (770) 467-3888 or contact us online.


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