Dental X-rays

Amount of Radiation

Two patients with posed smiles

Did you know that everyone is exposed to radiation in our everyday lives? The amount of radiation you are exposed to with 4 bitewings or a Full Mouth Series of X-rays is less than the amount of average radiation in the U.S. from natural sources.

At Steckelberg Dental, we utilize the American Dental Association’s guidelines for prescribing dental radiographs, including the ALARA principle. The ALARA principle means taking X-rays at ‘As Low As Reasonably Achievable’ amounts of radiation exposure. More information can be found at the American Dental Association website.

Types of X-rays

  • 4 Bitewings. These X-rays examine in-between your back teeth only. They will show bone height around your teeth, as well as cavities between your teeth. It is common to have these X-rays taken on a regular basis, as they show problem areas that are very difficult for your dentist to visualize or feel until the problem is large. Our goal as dental providers is to diagnose dental problems in the earliest stage possible.

  • Periapical X-ray. A periapical X-ray typically shows the complete tooth structure, including crown and complete root of one to two teeth. We will often abbreviate this X-ray as a PA. It is common to have this X-ray taken if you are having a toothache or if dental infection is suspected.

  • Panoramic X-ray. A panoramic X-ray (or “Pano”) shows all your teeth, your temporomandibular joint, part of your maxillary sinuses, and both your jaw bones. It is useful in determining the location and number of permanent teeth present in a child. A Pano is also routinely taken every 5-7 years as a general survey of your oral anatomy and if wisdom teeth removal is indicated. It is important that our office has a copy of a recent Pano or Full Mouth Series on file for each patient to compare if problems arise.

  • Full Mouth Series. A Full Mouth Series (FMS) is a set of 14-18 individual X-rays, typically including 4 bitewings and 14 periapical X-rays. If you have had much dental treatment in the past, this may be the general survey taken of your mouth every 5-7 years. Insurance will typically cover either a Pano or FMS every 3-5 years.

  • Occlusal X-rays. Two occlusal X-rays are usually taken at the first opportunity available during your child's visit to our dental office. These special X-rays allow early intervention for dental problems including: extra teeth, missing permanent front teeth, cysts, abscesses, growths, and a cleft in the roof of the mouth (cleft palate). With the exception of traumatic injury, occlusal X-rays are usually only taken once during a patient's lifetime.

Frequency of X-rays

Dr. Steckelberg determines how often you should have dental X-rays based on your individual needs. If you are a patient that has experienced a large amount of dental decay, then we will recommend that you have dental X-rays more often than a patient who has never had a cavity.

Decision to take a dental X-ray is also based on your current situation. If you are experiencing dental pain, X-rays may also be necessary.

You have the option to refuse dental X-rays. You will need to sign an entry in your chart indicating that you have decided against the recommended X-rays. Unfortunately, x-rays are necessary for the diagnosis of many dental problems. If we have a concern about your choice, we will inform you of the risks you may face with your decision.