Dentists often take x-rays during a new patient or routine exam. Why do they take dental x-rays? What do dental x-rays show? Earwood Dentistry recommends that yearly oral x-rays be taken during a routine exam to make sure you’re getting the best information about the health of your teeth, gums and mouth. 

Dental X-rays Why do dentists take x-rays?

At every regularly-scheduled dental exam, the dentist will look inside a patient’s mouth to check the teeth for cavities or signs of other problems. However, there are parts of the teeth and mouth that a dentist can’t see with his eyes alone. Dentists rely on x-ray images to determine the health of the bone and areas of the teeth they would not otherwise be able to see.

What do dental x-rays show?

  • Cavities
  • Infections
  • Developing teeth
  • Bone health
  • Tumors and cysts


While some large cavities are detectable immediately upon a visual examination, other cavities are invisible to the naked eye. Sometimes cavities develop between the teeth or under the gums where they are invisible, and others are small enough to escape detection. Using x-rays, a dentist can diagnose hidden or small cavities and treat them before they become big problems.


Teeth can develop infections at their root. If not diagnosed or treated, these infections can cause swelling and pain. An x-ray of the root of the tooth can help a dentist determine if an infection requires treatment.

Developing teeth

X-rays show teeth that have not yet erupted or become visible in the mouth. Dentists use x-rays to make sure permanent teeth are developing normally and to check for missing teeth. They may use x-rays to determine if a patient is likely to need orthodontic treatment in the future. Dentists can also see impacted teeth, like wisdom teeth, and determine if they require intervention.

Bone health

While a dentist can examine the gums visually, he cannot see the bone that supports the teeth and gums. Bone health is critical to maintaining good oral health. Dental x-rays show the level and density of the bone structure that supports the teeth. This helps the dentist to determine if the patient needs any special gum treatments. X-rays also help a dentist to determine if a patient’s bone is healthy enough to support certain dental treatments, like implants.

Tumors and cysts

While rare, a patient can develop tumors or cysts in the jaw bone. A dentist can use a special kind of x-ray, called a panoramic x-ray, to check the entire jaw for abnormal growth.

Dentists use x-rays as an essential diagnostic tool. Dental x-rays reveal much about the health of teeth and the supporting bone and can help you and your dentist make informed treatment choices to keep your smile healthy. 

If you are currently looking for a new dental home for yourself or a loved one, we are here for you.  Need to make an appointment?  Contact Earwood Dentistry online or at (919) 847-8413 today!