As part of your dental check-up and exam, our North Houston dentist will take periodic x-rays of your teeth. You may wonder why these images are necessary?  Can’t the dentist just look into your mouth and diagnose cavities and such? The answer is yes, and no. While some dental conditions are obvious with a quick oral examination, others are not. 

Dental x-rays show us all the things that we can’t see when we look into your mouth.  For instance, the full body of each tooth, their roots, and nerve tissue, as well as your surrounding bone. 

An x-ray can reveal a large cavity within a tooth that looked quite small on the surface. Seeing this can change our treatment plan from a filling to a crown if most of the tooth is decayed, or even a root canal is the nerve tissue is damaged. 

In dentistry, there are different kinds of x-rays and each image gives us various types of information about your teeth. To determine the extent of your condition and be able to recommend the proper treatment plan, we may take bitewings, periapicals (PAs), a panorex, or a dental cat-scan. 

Below is a breakdown of what each image shows us and what we learn from it.

Bitewing X-Rays

When we look into your mouth we can’t see between your teeth. Bitewing x-rays reveal this area to us so that we can determine if there are cavities there. 

Since it’s very common for people to develop cavities between their teeth (due to lack of flossing), we usually take a set of four bitewing x-rays once a year during your dental cleaning appointment.

These x-rays reveal the body of each tooth but nothing underneath the gumline.

Periapical Image

If we suspect that a problem with one of your teeth extends further than the body of the tooth, then we’ll take a periapical film.  Also known as a “PA”, this x-ray shows us the entire body of a tooth, the pulp and nerve canals, as well as the roots and bone surrounding it.

A dental abscess is revealed in periapical films, which means that you’ll either need root canal therapy or an extraction to eradicate the infection.


A panorex is a single, two-dimensional image that shows us the internal structures located from your nose to chin. The x-ray is often taken in smaller children to determine if all of their permanent teeth are present, as well as wisdom teeth that come in when they’re in their late teens. 

Dental Cat-Scan Image

A dental cat-scan/CT scan shows us everything that a panorex does but in a three-dimensional image that we can dissect to look at specific things. Cat-scans are an invaluable tool in considering and placing dental implants. This highly advanced technology also allows us to diagnose tumors, cysts, sinus infections, and bone fractures among other things. 

Dental X-Rays In Houston

Dr. Sasan Bastani, DDS understands the importance of using digital dental x-rays to make a proper diagnosis for our patients. Don’t settle for mediocre treatment, call today to schedule an appointment with the best in North Houston Dentistry.