Types of Dental X-Rays

Dental x-rays help your dentist diagnose problems like cavities, gum disease, and infections. Dental x-rays are a large part of detecting and diagnosing diseases or other potential issues. It might surprise you to learn that there are a few different types of dental x-rays, however. Here’s what to know about them and what makes them different.


Bitewing x-rays, so named because the patient bites on a small tab of x-ray film while capturing the image, are taken to see the crowns of your teeth and their relationship to each other – and to help diagnose cavities between the teeth. Bitewing x-rays produce a series of images that show the crowns of the teeth, with part of their roots, on both the upper and lower jaws. Due to the positioning of the film being exposed, this type of x-ray does not show surrounding bone structures or tooth roots. Bitewings are usually taken yearly.


Occlusal x-rays provide a general overview of all teeth in the mouth. They are typically used to detect dental problems in their early stages. Occlusal is the anteroposterior projection of the face in which the film is placed in the mouth upright and facing two teeth, the central incisors. The x-ray beam passes through these teeth and exposes the film on their buccal side. Occlusal X-rays provide a broad view of the teeth and are generally taken 1 to 4 times throughout the patient’s childhood. This type of x-ray helps identify tooth development, look for decay between teeth, visualize growth and development, and detect changes in bone structure.

Periapical (PA)

Periapical (PA) x-rays capture a single tooth from the crown to the level of the supporting bone. They’re great for seeing the overall health of the root and nerve of a tooth so that dentists can diagnose possible infections.


Panoramic x-rays are taken by placing a small bar in your mouth and capturing an image of your whole mouth. As this image is taken, you will move from one side of the machine to the other, allowing it to capture more of the tooth and surrounding jawbone, showing what’s going on in your mouth.
Panoramic x-rays are commonly used for checkups and cleanings and show if all permanent teeth have erupted. This image is helpful when looking for all of the following: impacted teeth, cysts and tumors in the jaw, and sinus problems.

CariVu Transillumination

CariVu is a portable, easy-to-use detection device that uses patented transillumination technology and filtered, natural light to help you find cavities in teeth and can be used as a primary screening device for decay or a secondary screening device to verify its presence. Without the need for tooth preparation or even radiation, CariVu allows you to see through the tooth enamel to detect tooth decay. The CariVu Transillumination x-ray may be used in place of traditional radiographs in children who are x-ray averse or as an additional screening tool to limit exposure to ionizing radiation.

Schedule an Appointment

X-rays are an important part of your dental care. To meet with our team and learn more about your can benefit, contact our Cincinatti office by calling or filling out our online contact form.

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