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Alexandria Total Dentistry

General & Cosmetic Dentistry located in Alexandria, VA

Dental X-rays are an integral component of preventive oral health care, helping dentists uncover disease or damage that can’t be seen during a routine dental exam. At Alexandria Total Dentistry in Alexandria, Virginia, Daniel J. Lee, DMD, and Steven J. Lee, DDS, utilize cutting-edge digital X-rays, which use much less radiation than traditional X-rays. If you’re in the Washington, D.C., area and you’d like to schedule a visit, call the office today or schedule an appointment online any time.

X-Rays Q & A

How are X-rays used in dentistry?

X-rays are an essential tool in preventive dentistry because they help reveal the hidden signs of damage, decay, and disease that can’t always be seen in a clinical oral exam.

Also known as radiograph imaging, X-ray imaging uses electromagnetic waves, a type of low-dose radiation, to produce detailed images of the structures inside your mouth. As these energy waves pass through your oral tissues, they’re absorbed in varying degrees depending on the density of those tissues.

Bone tissue absorbs the most X-ray energy because it’s dense. That’s why your teeth and jawbones appear white on X-ray film. Fat, muscle, and other soft tissues appear gray because they absorb less energy.

Although some dental X-rays are extraoral, or taken from outside your mouth, most dental X-rays are intraoral, or taken from inside your mouth. That’s because intraoral X-rays generally provide the most detailed pictures of your teeth, bones, and soft tissues.

What do dental X-rays show?

Dental X-rays allow the team at Alexandria Total Dentistry to diagnose hidden tooth decay or detect concealed signs of a potential oral health problem. X-rays are used to:

  • Diagnose tooth decay (cavities)
  • Look for signs of periodontitis (gum disease)
  • Evaluate the roots of your teeth
  • Assess jawbone health around each tooth
  • Monitor the status of developing teeth

The most common types of dental X-rays include:


This type of X-ray allows your dentist to see teeth in their entirety, from their crown to their roots. It also provides a view of the bone tissue that surrounds and supports each tooth.


Bitewing X-rays helps your dentist see your molars, or the upper and lower teeth in the back of your mouth. Besides revealing details about tooth alignment and bite, this type of X-ray also shows if there’s any hidden decay between your molars.


This type of X-ray, which provides a view of your teeth, jaws, nasal area, and sinuses, is usually used for patients who require dental implants or orthodontic treatment.

Are X-rays safe?

It’s not unusual for patients to worry about the safety of X-rays because they expose your body to radiation. Although significant or accumulative radiation exposure can lead to the type of cell mutations that cause cancer, traditional dental X-ray machines use extremely low doses of radiation that are considered safe.

In an effort to provide the safest possible care, the team at Alexandria Total Dentistry use digital X-rays, a cutting-edge alternative to traditional low-dose X-rays.

Even though digital X-rays still require a small amount of radiation to produce images, they use far less than traditional X-rays — your radiation exposure from digital X-rays is 50-80% less than with low-dose traditional dental X-rays.

To ensure X-ray testing is as safe as possible, you’ll also wear a lead apron over your body. The radiation that you’re exposed to doesn’t remain in your body following the procedure.

How often should I have dental X-rays?

X-rays are a routine part of preventive dental care, and most people need to have them on a regular basis to help maintain optimal oral health. To determine how frequently you need X-rays, your dentist considers your dental and medical history, and assesses your current oral health.

If you’re prone to developing cavities, you can expect to have dental X-rays every six months; those who rarely get cavities may only need X-rays once every couple years. The team at Alexandria Total Dentistry can let you know what’s best for you based on your individual oral health needs.

To learn more about digital X-rays, call the office or schedule an appointment online today.