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5 Tips on How to Take Good Dental X-Rays

Published: July 23, 2018 | Updated: October 26, 2020

If you’re a dental assistant, you probably already know the importance of capturing good dental images for diagnosis and treatment. Whether your patient has an abscess, cavities, or an impacted tooth, dental X-rays can give you a clear picture of his or her oral health. But if the X-rays of teeth aren’t taken correctly, they may have to be redone. That can make you lose precious time, which can cost you money and frustrate your patients. So how do you take a good dental X-ray? Below are some dental assistant tips to help you capture accurate images with every patient.

Use the Proper Dental X-Ray Alignment

One of the keys to a good dental X-ray is alignment. The receptor, a dental assistant tool that goes into the patient’s mouth and captures the images, should be positioned in the correct position according to the area in the mouth. The X-ray beam, which produces the images, should also be placed at the correct angle in accordance. If the receptor, beam, or both, are not in accordance, the teeth could appear elongated, shortened, or overlapped in the X-rays.

Include the Whole Mouth with the Dental X-Rays

If you need to take panoramic X-rays, a Panoramic x-ray includes all sections of the mouth, even those missing teeth. For example, capture images of the third molars, or wisdom teeth, even if they have been removed.

Avoid Bending the X-Ray Film

If the film or the receptor bends, it can result in a distorted or unclear image. To avoid this, use a receptor that best fits the size of your patient’s mouth when he or she bites. Rigid digital receptors are the best solution for this because they are made with hard plastic and cannot be bent.

Adjust the Exposure when You Take the X-Ray

For a properly exposed image, a smaller mouth requires less light than a larger mouth. With that in mind, adjust the exposure settings depending on the size of your patient’s mouth. A child or petite adult will require a lower setting than a larger adult. If the exposure is not set correctly, your images may end up under or overexposed.

Make Your Patient Comfortable during the Dental X-Rau

Your patient’s comfort is also the key to taking good X-rays. If your patient is uncomfortable, he or she may move or try to reposition while you’re taking the X-rays, causing the final images to appear blurred or poorly defined. Below are some tips to keep them still:

  • Give Your Patient Support: Make sure your patient’s head and neck are supported before you begin taking X-rays.
  • Ease the Gag Reflex: We all have a gag reflex that can be easily triggered, but some patients may have a more sensitive gag reflex than others. If gagging is still a problem, tell your patient to breathe deeply through their nose, hum, or refocus his or her attention elsewhere.


If you’re interested in learning how to take great dental X-rays, Charter College’s Certificate in Dental Assisting program in Canyon Country, Lancaster, Oxnard, Fife, Pasco, and Vancouver will teach you that and much more. Contact us today to learn more about this exciting profession and to find out how our program might benefit you.