When X-rays pass through your mouth during a dental exam, more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums) before striking the film. This creates an image on the radiograph. Teeth appear lighter because fewer X-rays penetrate to reach the film. Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease, including changes in the bone and ligaments holding teeth in place, appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. Dental restorations (fillings, crowns) may appear lighter or darker, depending on the type of material used for the restoration. The interpretation of these X-rays allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities
Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth. An X-ray examination may reveal:
• small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations (fillings);
• infections in the bone;
• periodontal (gum) disease;
• abscesses or cysts;
• developmental abnormalities;
• some types of tumors.
Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort. It can detect damage to oral structures not visible during a regular exam. If you have a hidden tumor, radiographs may even help save your life.