Dental X-Rays: Why Are They Important? An Interview with Dr. Karagiorgos

Dental X-Rays: Why Are They Important? An Interview with Dr. Karagiorgos

You brush, you floss, you’ve started scraping your tongue, and you come in for regular check ups.   Perhaps you’ve been wondering why you need to get dental x-rays on top of your excellent oral care routine.  Are dental x-rays really necessary for your oral health?  The answer is yes: dental x-rays are a useful diagnostic tool for Dr. Brunacini and Dr. Karagiorgos and help them detect damage and disease not visible during a general exam.  This month we spoke with Dr. Karagiorgos about why dental x-rays are an important part of your oral health care.

Dental X-rays provide dentists the opportunity to identify any potential problems in the mouth. What exactly are you looking for when you review X-rays?

Dr. Karagiorgos: X-rays are a very important diagnostic tool that allow dentists to see more of people’s teeth than what we can see in the mouth with just magnifying lenses and a headlight. With x-rays we can see things like tooth decay between adjacent teeth, we can see if there are any potential problems under the gums, in the bone or in the roots of the teeth.

Are there any types of x-rays that hurt or require special preparation or protection?

Dr. Karagiorgos: Dental x-rays themselves don’t hurt per se. There are conditions in some patients that can make it a little more difficult for those patients to take x-rays.  For example, patients with a limited ability to open their mouth, patients that have a very strong gag reflex or some that have larger bony protrusions in their mouths.  X-rays have evolved and improved quite a bit over the years. At Falmouth Dental Arts, we have state-of-the-art digital x-ray sensors that allow us to take and immediately see diagnostic images in high resolution, using far less radiation than the previous generation film x-rays.

What are the most serious diseases or conditions that you can prevent thanks to taking regular X-rays?

Dr. Karagiorgos: X-rays can help us routinely detect things like dental decay and tooth infections. X-rays can also help us diagnose very serious general health problems. We can see pathology in the bone like invasive cysts or cancerous tumors. Panoramic  films and 3D cone beam x-rays that rotate around the head are commonly used to evaluate the jaw joints or to see wisdom teeth coming in. These x-rays with expanded fields of view can also help us see things like restricted airways, salivary blockages or even calcifications in the circulatory system of the neck which can put patients at increased risk of stroke.

What has been the most surprising thing that you have seen on Dental X-rays?

Dr. Karagiorgos: I just got back from a dental convention where a dentist presented the latest imaging technology. He presented us a slide showing x-rays taken on a 6 year old boy. His images showed what looked like a round metal object in the boy’s left sinus. The x-ray image was of such great quality that we were able to make out George Washington’s bust! It turns out that without anyone’s knowledge, the boy had lodged a quarter so deep into his nose that it ended up in the boy’s maxillary sinus. That was pretty surprising to see, but even more surprising was the very next slide.

It was an x-ray of the sinus of the boy’s 8-year-old brother.  Apparently, the brother had a lego brick in the exact same location!

Are there any medical conditions or situations where you advise patients to not undergo x-rays?

Dr. Karagiorgos: Typically, no. Dental X-rays are of lower doses of radiation. They are considered generally safe.  That said, we specifically try to limit x-ray exposure to expectant women. We are always weighing the risks and benefits of every treatment, and this includes taking x-rays.  

As dentists, we practice the ALARA principle with radiation.  ALARA stands for “as low as reasonably achievable”. This principle means that even if it is a small dose of radiation, if there is no direct benefit, you should try to avoid it.


Thank you, Dr. Karagiorgos!

When was the last time you had x-rays of your teeth taken? We recommend routine Bitewings x-rays for adults every 1-2 years depending on decay history, gum health, and dry mouth. For children and teens we recommend it every year. Major films are recommended every 3-5 years for both adults and children to monitor growth and development as well as periodontal health. Call our office today at 207.781.5900 to make your appointment!

*Image courtesy of   


Dental Radiology: Purpose and Precautions

X-rays might sound a little extreme for the dentist, but that’s not necessarily the case. From early detection of cavities, decay, gingivitis, and even oral cancers, X-rays are an excellent tool for your dentist to get the full picture of your teeth, gums, and jaw. 

Who needs dental X-Rays?

Everyone needs dental x-rays. X-rays are typically done as soon as you become a patient at a new dental practice to help your new dentist become better acquainted with your current dental health. After your initial exams, x-rays become an annual part of your regular oral exams. Children usually require x-rays more frequently than adults because their jaws and teeth are still  developing to maturity.

Dentists especially need x-rays to perform their job thoroughly. Although their super dentist eyes can spot damage or decay on the surface of teeth and gums from miles away, neither Dr. Brunacini nor Dr. Karagiorgos have x-ray vision! They need a little bit of help to see inside your teeth, gums, and jaw bones to give you the best care possible.

Radiology Precautions

The radiation levels used during dental x-rays are so low that they are completely safe. However, to cover all of the bases, you will be given a lead bib or apron to wear while your x-rays are taken. Although it might not be very stylish, the lead bib or apron acts as a precautionary shield to your vital organs so they can avoid any unnecessary exposure to radiation. 

If you are pregnant or believe that you might be pregnant, you should not have any x-rays done. Please let your hygienist and dentist know if you think or know that you are expecting! 

Types of X-Rays

X-rays images are not only helpful to your dentist–they’re fun to look at. There are four major types of dental x-rays that provide a different map of your mouth:

1. Bitewing: For a bitewing x-ray, the hygienist will have you bite down on a special piece of paper during the x-ray. The resulting image will show how well the crowns of your teeth match when you bite down.   

2. Occlusal: Occlusal x-rays examine your bite–how well your bottom and top teeth line up as well as the structure of your jaw. They also take a close look at the roof and floor of your mouth.

3. Panoramic: This is an exciting x-ray! For a panoramic view, the x-ray machine will rotate slowly around your head to give the dentist a comprehensive view of your entire oral and nasal cavities. 

Three Dimensional Scans take panoramic excitement to new levels. The latest development in dental technology is the CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography) 3D scan. The process of a 3D  is very similar to that of a panoramic: the machine rotates slowly around your head, capturing images of your skull. Instead of traditional x-rays, the CBCT scan uses cone beams (named for their conical shape) to create a 3D model of your entire jaw structure. Like any three dimensional object, the CBCT scan can be rotated and viewed from any angle.

4. Periapical: This type of x-ray gives a big picture of a small surface area. Periapical images zoom in on one or two teeth to show the bone and gum in great detail.

Here at Falmouth Dental Arts, we strive to provide our patients the most comprehensive dental care available. X-rays are a valuable tool for our dentists, hygienists and patients, giving us an in-depth look at teeth, gums, jaw bones and nasal cavities. Regular x-rays allow dentists to predict–and address–oral issues before they become serious complications.

If you have any questions about our dental x-ray procedure or the images themselves, just ask. Dr. Brunacini, Dr. Karagiorgos, and our fabulous hygienist team will be more than happy to answer all of your questions so that you can be just as excited about your x-rays as we are. To schedule your appointment, please call our office at 207.781.5900.    


Prevent Oral Ailments with Dental Radiography

We often associate X-rays with broken bones, and because of this we think of them as being part of diagnostic rather than preventative medicine. In dentistry, however, it’s different. Dental X-rays play an invaluable role in detecting problems before they become major and are an important tool that we use to judge the progress of ailments.

You’re familiar with the lead vest and being asked to bite down on various shaped pieces of plastic. If you’ve ever wondered what these methods are, here is a rundown of each type of dental X-ray and what each accomplishes:



Dental Radiography - intraoral - bite-wing

  • Gives us a view of in between the back teeth – molars and bicuspids
  • Assess the health of bone surrounding the teeth
  • Used to see cavities


  • Gives a detailed picture of an entire tooth from root to crown and the surrounding bone
  • Used to check for infection (abscess)


  • Used frequently in children to view tooth development and placement
  • Bird’s eye view showing all of the lower or upper teeth and jaw




Dental radiography - extraoral - panoramic x-ray

  • Taken from outside the mouth, they show the teeth, jawbones, and skull
  • One image that shows the entire mouth
  • This is accomplished by a special machine that moves in a full rotation around your head
  • A ‘landscape’ image which shows more anatomical structures than other X-ray techniques


  • An image of the entire side of the head
  • Used frequently by orthodontists to assess the position of teeth relative to the skull

CBCT (Cone Beam)

  • 3-D image that can be used to evaluate hard and soft tissue prior to treatment


Various X-ray techniques are important for catching many dental ailments before they get worse, such as cavities or gum disease. We recommend having bite-wing x-rays once a year for general maintenance. If more complicated treatment is needed, then different x-rays may be needed.  If it’s time for you to have new X-rays, give us a call at 207-781-5900 to make an appointment.

How Frequently Do You Need Dental X-Rays?

When we think of dental tools, the first things that come to mind are molds, drills, and scrapers. But the often-overlooked dental X-ray is one of the most important tools in the dentist’s arsenal for maintaining oral health. Since dental X-rays are used to diagnose problems, they are often the first line of defense for dentists to assess what ailments a new patient may have. But dental X-rays are not just for new patients.

Adults with healthy teeth should be getting X-rays of their teeth every 2 to 3 years. Children, however, should have X-rays taken every year since their teeth are constantly growing, which causes rapid changes. As with most everything else, the sooner a problem is detected the easier, and cheaper, it will be to correct and dental X-rays play a huge part in fixing oral health problems. When is the last time you had X-rays of your teeth taken? Call our office today at 207-781-5900 to make your appointment.

dental x-rays