3 Things to Know About Dental X-Rays

One part of getting a routine dental checkup is to have X-rays taken of your teeth. However, you're likely wondering what all the various terms mean that your dentist is using, and how you can make sense of that X-ray on your own. Here are three things you should know to better understand your dental X-ray.

Know the Difference Between Radiolucency and Radiopacity

Anything in your X-ray that is dark is called radiolucent. It is normal for some structure of your mouth to look dark, such as the nerve of your tooth, so having a dark area does not necessarily mean that it is a bad thing. The light areas of your X-ray are called radiopaque, and many things in an X-ray are supposed to be light-colored. For example, you'll notice in the X-ray that the enamel of your tooth is lighter than the center of the tooth, which is completely normal. Dental fillings will also have a lighter appearance in an X-ray, with silver fillings having a very light color to them.

Know the Early Signs of a Cavity

Be aware that cavities often show up in darker radiolucent spots on an X-ray, but they can be hard to spot with the untrained eye. That is why your dentist will know what to look for to identify cavities, even when they are fairly small and just forming. An example of this type of abnormal radiolucency would be black specs that are in the enamel of your tooth. When just starting to form, these spots will normally just be in the enamel of the tooth and not spread into the dentin. However, it will be necessary to fill the cavity if the dark spots extend into the dentin. That is because the decay is only going to spread further and get worse over time.

Know the Early Signs of an Infection

Another thing that a dentist is going to look out for is a sign of having an infection. They'll be looking for dark spots around the root of your tooth. This is not a good thing to see on an X-ray, because it often means that you need to get a root canal to clear out the infection and save the tooth from needing to be removed.

Have questions about what you are seeing in your dental X-ray? Be sure to contact a family dentistry practice to get answers to your question.