Dental X-rays (or radiographs) are one of the main tools dentists use to make a complete diagnosis. A visual examination by the dentist will reveal much information, but it often impossible to detect small cavities forming between teeth or under old fillings, without the aid of X-rays. Additionally, radiographs will allow the dentist to see the health of the underlying bone which can indicate the presence of gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Many other conditions can be found only by taking radiographs.
Radiographs are taken when a problem or issue is suspected, but also should be taken routinely even if everything looks and feels fine. Depending on a patient's risk factors and past dental health, a set of bitewing radiographs (2-4 small pictures) are recommended every 6 months to 3 years. Additionally, for most patients a full set of X-rays showing all teeth and oral areas are recommended every 3-5 years.