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8 Common Dental Problems That X-Rays Can Uncover


Dental X-Rays are an amazing tool that we use to properly diagnose and treat your teeth. They allow us to diagnose damage that is invisible to the naked eye. They are great at preventing the most common dental problems our patients face. In fact, there are 8 problems in particular that they help us catch.


When you come into our office with tooth pain, we can treat your cavity. But wouldn’t it be better to stop your cavity before it gets out of control and to the point of causing pain? That is one of the main things x-rays help us do. After the x-ray is taken, we examine it looking for an changes in density of your tooth and/or dentin. This often shows up a dark spot. These dark spots and lines appear because decayed tooth material is less dense and the x-ray light penetrates it more easily, which exposes the film more.


Most of the time when we think about cavities we think about holes in our molars, but did you know that you can also develop a cavity in between your teeth? This type of decay is called an interproximal cavity and it shows up on a dental x-ray as a deep dark line in the area between your teeth. Often times the cavity is deeper than it shows up on the x-ray.


Periapical x-rays show us your entire tooth from the root to crown. We like using these x-rays to look for any issues below the jawline like an abscess. If the abscess is advanced, it can show up on the x-ray as a dark halo around the tooth. This is because the pressure may have worn away some of your tissue.


Dental cysts are sacs of tissue that contain fluid or soft matter inside. They can pop up in your mouth and are often visible on dental x-rays as dark holes. While some are completely harmless and sterile, a cyst may become infected and wreak havoc in your mouth — which is why it is important we examine them and treat them if necessary. Sometimes they are caused by trauma, a genetic condition or they can even form at the end of a dead tooth.


When gum disease is not taken care of, it can actually cause you to have bone loss in your jaw. Dental x-rays, specifically the bite-wing x-ray, shows us that damage. We measure the centimeter length of your dental pockets and if they appear very deep on your x-ray there is a chance your have lost bone mass due to decay. This is important for us to know as it affects your ability to receive certain dental treatments like dental implants.


Cephalometric x-rays capture an image of your entire head from the side. They are often used by orthodontists to map out treatment plans for straightening teeth. It shows us the angle of any bite issues and your current jaw position. From this information we can hypothesize the course of your bite’s progression and adjust our treatment plan accordingly. Interestingly, these x-rays are also used by ear, nose and throat doctors to treat sleep apnea or airway disorders.

7. TMJ

Your temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the to your skull at the temples. It is the joint that allows you to talk and chew. While discomfort, popping or locking may alert you to an issues with the joint, the only way to know for sure is a dental x-ray that allows us to look at that connection point and detect any abnormalities. Digital x-rays that allow us to view your structure as a 3-D image are the best for this diagnosis.


An impacted tooth is a wisdom tooth that is unable to fully erupt because it is blocked by other teeth. This situation can cause pain and can lead to other dental problems. On a dental x-ray we can see easily spot these teeth sprouting up and help you take care of them.


  1. Enrique Pasion says:

    A very informative article on how dental problems can be detected through a x-ray scan. Thank you for sharing this post.

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