What are the different types of dental X-ray?

types of dental radiography

Dental radiography is one of the most common procedures performed by dentists in Lausanne and Fribourg. This examination, based on X-ray technology, provides precise images of the oral cavity. The professional can thus assess the state of your oral health, as well as detect pathologies not visible to the naked eye. What are the different types of dental X-ray? When should this medical examination be carried out? Which patients should avoid X-rays? HELVIDENT answers all your questions in this article.

Types of dental radiography 

Dentists and dental hygienists in Lausanne or Fribourg can perform several types of dental X-ray. The choice depends on the patient's particular needs, as each offers a different view of the mouth.

  • Panoramic radiographs: for an overview of all oral anatomical structures. 
  • Interproximal radiography: to visualize interdental surfaces not visible during clinical examination.
  • Periapical radiography: to assess the precise condition of two whole teeth from root to crown.
  • Cephalometric radiography: prior to orthodontic treatment.
  • 3D radiography (scans): in certain trauma or implantology situations, for example.

Why have a dental X-ray?

This dental examination uses a small amount of X-rays to enable the dentist to visualize the inside of the teeth, gums and bones of the mouth. It is an essential complement to the visual inspection of the oral cavity before making a diagnosis. 

The dentist performs a dental X-ray in the following cases:

  • anticipate the evolution and orientation of children's teeth
  • monitor theemergence of wisdom teeth in adolescents
  • detect hidden tooth decay, cysts, abscesses or tumours
  • check the condition of the gums and jaws (tartar deposits under the gums, bone loss, pulpal calcification)
  • visualize temporomandibular joints

This examination is essential when compiling a dental file, particularly for insurance purposes.

Is it risky to expose yourself to radiation? 

Excessive or prolonged exposure to X-rays can be hazardous to health. Legislation therefore strictly regulates the radiation to which patients and practitioners are exposed. The unit of measurement used is the millisievert (mSv). 

According to the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the maximum level authorized over the course of a year is :

  • 1mSv for the general public.
  • 20 mSv for professionals (health, aviation, nuclear, etc.)

To give you an idea, the radiation dose emitted during an intraoral X-ray varies between 0.01 and 0.08 mSv. 

To limit the risk of X-rays, dentists in Switzerland adorn their patients with a special apron and lead collar. These accessories protect vital organs such as the thyroid gland and reproductive system. In the case of pregnant women, X-ray examinations are only carried out when absolutely necessary. This is an additional precaution for the fetus. 

As a result, dental X-rays are safe for both adults and children. Exposure levels are also very low. Most dental practices in Switzerland now use digital X-ray technology. These devices offer more accurate results while emitting up to 90 % less radiation.

It's worth noting that we expose ourselves to a much higher level of radiation when we travel by plane. Each hour of flight is equivalent to an average of 5 interproximal X-rays. Indeed, in the air, we no longer benefit from the protection of the Earth's magnetic field. For further information, we invite you to read theScience&Vie article

When should you have your teeth checked?

The frequency with which the dentist performs a dental X-ray varies according to : 

  • patient's age
  • oral health status
  • symptoms of oral disease
  • a history of gum disease or tooth loosening

As a general rule, this procedure is performed once a year as part of a dental check-up. In the case of pathology or oral treatment, you will need to undergo it more often. Your dentist will tell you how often.

New patients to a dental practice in Lausanne or Fribourg must provide a recent dental X-ray. If this is not the case, the patient is invited to have one taken on site. 

As far as children are concerned, dentists can subject them to this examination on a more regular basis. The reason is simple: they need to monitor the development of their permanent dentition to anticipate any problems and treat them in good time.


Regardless of the type of dental X-ray, it is an important examination for monitoring your oral health. Like scaling, it should be carried out regularly at a dental center. This way, your dentist can detect any problems and treat them in good time. HELVIDENT dental clinics comply with all current safety standards, as well as the radiation doses legal in Switzerland. Please contact us to schedule your next consultation.