Why Do We Use X-rays?

You’re probably used to getting X-rays taken at your regular dental exams. After all, without X-rays, hidden cavities, infections, impacted wisdom teeth, and other unseen conditions can go unnoticed and lead to serious dental problems. But, why do you need X-rays for your orthodontic treatment?

While beautifully aligned teeth and a healthy bite are the visible result of our work as orthodontists, there’s a lot going on below the surface that needs to be discovered and taken into account before your treatment even
begins. This is why X-rays, also called radiographs, are so important in orthodontics.

X-rays help us evaluate:


The size, shape, position, condition, and number of your teeth will have an impact on your treatment plan. We want to make sure your teeth are healthy before you start treatment. And we always want to preserve teeth if possible, so radiographs are a vital tooth in deciding if an extraction is necessary. X-rays also provide the chance to see just how your wisdom teeth are developing, and whether or not they should be dealt with before, during, or after orthodontic treatment.


Moving the visible part of your teeth (called the crowns) into alignment will only be effective if the non-visible roots move into the right spot as well. Using X-rays lets us know just where your roots should move for the best
results, as well as how their size and shape affect treatment. Over time, the roots will become stable in their new positions as the bone tissue around them remodels, making sure they stay in place.

Jaw Formation

Knowing the size and shape of your jaw and the way the jawbones work together to create your bite is also extremely important. X-rays allow us to discover any situations that will affect your tooth alignment and bite, such as upper and lower jaws that are too small or too large, bones that don’t fit together properly, bones with an irregular shape, or any other condition that could cause problems. With the information X-rays provide, we can
design a treatment plan that will give you a healthy and comfortable bite and make sure your teeth have the space they need.


We might recommend X-rays at some point during your treatment to make sure that the teeth and roots are aligning correctly and that the roots and the bone structure surrounding them are healthy. Adjustments can be made to your brackets, if necessary, to make sure every tooth is moving precisely where it needs to.

Completed Treatment

X-rays are often taken when your treatment is complete, and will help suggest the best type of retainer needed to make sure your beautiful smile lasts a lifetime.

Concerned about X-rays? It makes sense to ask about X-rays whenever they are recommended, because X-rays require some exposure to radiation. It’s reassuring to know that typical dental X-rays actually require a very low level of radiation. Even so, dentists want to make any exposure as minimal as possible, so they follow what is known as the ALARA principle—As Low As Reasonable Achievable.

This means that, as orthodontists, we will only take X-rays when they are absolutely necessary, and only as many as are necessary. Modern traditional and digital X-rays are more efficient and use less radiation than ever before, and protective aprons and/or collars are used as needed. Talk to us if you have any concerns about radiographs, and we will be happy to explain just how we will make your experience a safe and comfortable one.

The goal of your orthodontic treatment is a beautiful, healthy, visible smile. X-rays allow us to diagnose and evaluate the unseen parts of the teeth and bones which help form your smile, and allow us to plan and carry out the
treatment that will not only create that beautiful smile, but make sure it lasts a lifetime.