Dental radiographs, commonly referred to as X-ray films, or informally, X-rays, are pictures of the teeth, bones, and surrounding A radiographic image is formed by a controlled burst of X-ray radiation which penetrates oral structures at different levels, depending on varying anatomical densities, before striking the film or sensor. Teeth appear lighter because less radiation penetrates them to reach the film. Dental caries, infections and other changes in the bone density, and the periodontal ligament, appear darker because X-rays readily penetrate these less dense structures. Dental restorations (fillings, crowns) may appear lighter or darker, depending on the density of the material.
The dosage of dental X-ray radiation received by a dental patient is typically small (around 0.005 mSv), equivalent to a few days' worth of background environmental radiation exposure, or similar to the dose received during a cross-country airplane flight (concentrated into one short burst aimed at a small area). Incidental exposure is further reduced by the use of a lead shield, lead apron, sometimes with a lead thyroid collar. Technician exposure is reduced by stepping out of the room, or behind adequate shielding material, when the X-ray source is activated.
X-rays help your dentist visualize diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissue that cannot be seen with a simple oral examination. In addition, X-rays help your dentist find and treat dental problems early in their development, which can potentially save you money, unnecessary discomfort, and maybe even save your life.