Why Does Your Orthodontist Take X-Rays?

Taking X-ray with braces on

An X-ray is a “window” into all of the supporting structures that your orthodontist will consider when crafting your perfect smile and healthy bite.

Although the end result is very much related to the teeth, it is important to remember that there is more than just the visible tooth that your orthodontist has to take into account in creating your perfect smile.

In order to plan a treatment that achieves the best results possible, all the supporting structures around your teeth are integral to an orthodontist’s planning. He will have to take roots, soft tissues, muscles, joints, nerves, and even bone structures into account.

When Are They Taken

Your orthodontist will need a complete understanding of the overall state of your teeth and supporting structures, as well as any existing issues in order to create the perfect solution for you. He will also need to know how treatment is affecting unseen structures (like the roots and jaw).

The exact number and types of X-rays the orthodontist will require depends on your individual course of treatment. As a general rule, over the course of a 2-year treatment, an orthodontist will take three rounds of X-rays:

Before treatment

The first X-ray is taken before treatment and is an integral part of how your orthodontist will define your treatment. It can also help to determine if any tooth extractions or surgery will be needed before treatment begins. Some of the things your orthodontist will look for:

  • missing, extra, impacted, or misplaced teeth
  • abnormal length or misshapen roots
  • jaw bone structure—is it?
    • asymmetrical or misshapen
    • too big or too small
    • too far apart or too close

During Treatment

This is the portion of the treatment where your orthodontist will refine his approach. Not all orthodontists will opt for an in-treatment X-ray, but some use it to assess the treatment’s progression and check how the shift plan is affecting the roots or jaw.

After Treatment

This is used to get a final picture of the treatment’s outcome and to fit a patient for a retainer. The orthodontist will probably ask you to wear your retainer every day and night for several months, subsequently during sleep and eventually a few nights per week. Modern scanners are now also used to create the retainer, replacing the need for a mold.

Are X-Rays Bad For Me?

There are often questions surrounding the safety of taking X-rays, especially since the radiation is in close proximity to the head and neck. Fear not, the radiation levels used in a dental X-ray machine are relatively low (akin to those in an X-ray machine at an airport) and they get lower with each machine.


There are newer imaging alternatives that do not rely on radiographing (images created by X-rays) to generate the image.

One of these is the 3M True Definition Scanner. Instead of taking one image, this Computer-aided Design (CAD) technology takes thousands of tiny images and then puts them together to create an extremely accurate 3D image of the teeth.

About Orthodontic Associates

Offering the convenience of 8 locations around Baltimore, Orthodontic Associates uses state-of-the-art appliances and revolutionary practices to provide our patients with the most up-to-date services available today.


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