Types of Dental X-Rays At Our Calgary Dentist Office

An important part of your annual dental hygiene cleaning and check-up with our Calgary dentist is assessing whether you require any dental x-rays of your teeth and jaw.  Although x-rays may not be necessary at every check-up and cleaning appointment, at your dental appointment our Calgary dentist will assess whether x-rays are recommended based upon a variety of factors including your age, your dental and overall health and whether you have any specific dental concerns.

At your appointment with our Calgary dentist, if x-rays are recommended, one or a combination of bitewings, periapical x-rays (Pas) and a panoramic x-ray may be taken.  Each different type of x-ray taken by our Calgary dentist serves a different purpose and examines different teeth or areas of your jaw.  Our Calgary dentist explains the purpose of dental x-rays and provides a brief explanation of each type of dental x-ray below.



The purpose of taking dental x-rays at our Calgary dentist office is two-fold.  First, if you are a new patient to our Calgary dentist office and you do not have any recent x-rays, a series of x-rays will be taken to establish a baseline from which to follow in the future.  Generally, these x-rays will include bitewings, periapical x-rays and a panoramic x-ray if one has not been taken within the last five years by another Calgary dentist.   If you already have dental x-rays from a previous dentist, our Calgary dentist will ask that a copy of these x-rays be provided to our office for evaluation. 

Second, x-rays are invaluable in the diagnosis of various dental issues that cannot be seen with other means of detection such as with the naked eye or an intra-oral camera.  Dental x-rays are used by our Calgary dentist to:


  • diagnose new dental caries (cavities)

  • diagnose cavities beneath existing restorations

  • determine the status of your gum health

  • determine if you have any bone loss

  • assist in the placement of dental implants

  • detect impacted wisdom teeth

  • help prepare for dental procedures such as dentures and orthodontics

  • for younger patients, to track the development and growth of teeth

  • detect a dental abcess

  • check a tooth root during and after a root canal procedure



A bitewing is a type of intra-oral x-ray that is taken by having the patient bite on a plastic sensor which is placed on a patient’s back teeth.  Each bitewing image shows the tooth from its crown to about the level of the bone that supports it.  Bitewing images help our Calgary dentist diagnose cavities which develop between your back teeth.  They can also help detect changes in your jawbone density (often caused by gum disease) and are useful when placing crowns to ensure they fit properly.



A periapical x-ray (sometimes referred to as a “Pa”) is also a type of intra-oral x-ray.  This type of x-ray image is used to view two or three teeth at a time.  This type of x-ray image shows a tooth from its crown to beyond the end of its roots for both your front and back teeth.



A panoramic x-ray (sometimes referred to as a “pan”) is an x-ray that is taken with a specialized x-ray machine that rotates around the outside of a patient’s head while the patient is in a standing position.  This type of x-ray can show all of the patient's jaw and teeth.



A dental cone beam CT scan is a type of x-ray that is used when regular dental x-rays such as a periapical or bitewing x-ray are not sufficient.  Dentists will use a cone beam CT scan to evaluate a patient’s soft tissues, nerve pathways, jawbone and teeth for dental procedures such as the placement of dental implants as well as complicated tooth extractions.  A proper evaluation of a patient’s facial structures can assist a Calgary dentist in avoiding potential complications in these types of dental procedures.  A cone beam CT scan also provides a Calgary dentist with a three dimensional image of the area of concern.

Because of the increased amount of radiation a patient is exposed to with this type of x-ray, cone beam CT scans are used much less frequently by Calgary dentists than other types of dental x-rays.  If our Calgary dentist recommends that you undergo a cone beam CT scan, then you will be referred to a specialist’s office who has this specialized type of equipment and has additional training in reading this type of specialized x-ray.


dental xrays



One of the most common questions our Calgary dentist is asked is whether dental x-rays are safe when pregnant.  According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, dental x-rays are considered to be safe during pregnancy.  Although this is the case, at our Calgary dentist office we recommend that, if at all possible, dental x-rays be delayed until after the baby has been delivered.  If however, dental x-rays are unavoidable, then every precaution will be taken to ensure the safety of both mother and baby, including by using a protective lead apron as well as a thyroid collar.


If it’s time for your annual dental examination and cleaning or if you have any dental concerns, we invite you to call our Calgary dentist for an appointment that will be scheduled at a time that is convenient for you.  We are conveniently located in the beautiful and vibrant community of Sunnyside / Kensington / Hillhurst.  Our Calgary dentist always warmly welcomes new patients to our office.  Call us today at 403.583.4252.  It would be our privilege to your lifelong partner in your oral healthcare!


This blog post written by our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, D.D.S., is for informational purposes only.  It is not to be taken or used as a substitute for dental, medical or other professional advice, treatment or diagnosis.  Always ask your dentist, physician or other healthcare professional for advice before altering your diet or healthcare routine.  Individual patient needs and oral healthcare concerns vary so please consult your dentist for more information about your specific dental health requirements.

Copyright 2021: Dirk A. Thompson Professional Corporation operating as Advance Your Health Dental.  Dr. Dirk A. Thompson, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


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