Digital X-rays are a useful tool used by dentists to reveal pertinent information about a patient’s teeth, bones, tissue, and nerves.

Better Information Leads to Better Dental Care

Before digital X-rays, patients, doctors, and dentists would have to wait for hours or even days to receive the results of an X-ray. Patients might have to schedule an X-ray appointment and a second appointment to review the X-ray. Or, if they were lucky, they could wait in the office for an hour before the film was developed. This long delay contributed to time-consuming appointments for both patients and medical professionals.

The advent of digital X-rays, or digital radiography, represents a significant advance over film based X-rays.

There were distinct diagnostic and clinical advantages to getting X-rays processed digitally where they are available much quicker and with higher image quality. Digital X-rays were found to require less radiation and leave a smaller environmental footprint.[1]

Old Town Smiles uses digital X-rays as part of our continued commitment to providing our patients with the most advanced and effective treatments in dental care. As a patient of Old Town Smiles, you benefit from this dedication to using the best techniques and technology available to us as dental professionals.

If you have a dental issue that might benefit from digital X-ray imaging, then contact Old Town Smiles’ Alexandria office at (703) 836-7000. You can also reach out to us online and schedule an appointment.

What Are Digital X-rays?

X-rays use pulses of radiation to take pictures of your mouth. Digital X-rays can take a picture of your teeth then immediately show it to you on an HD screen. We place a small, flat sensor in your mouth. The sensor is connected to a computer by a thin wire. Next, an X-ray beam is sent through your teeth and into the sensor, which records the image of your teeth and sends it to the computer.


Digital X-rays differ from traditional X-rays by using electronic devices to render the images instead of processing them to film. Modern imaging needs less radiation to digitally capture images than was necessary for film-based X-rays. The results of digital X-rays are also available immediately unlike with film which takes time to develop.

Benefits of Digital Radiography

One of the advantages of having a digital X-ray is that it allows our doctors to zoom in on a single tooth, rotate it, sharpen it and colorize it – thereby giving them access to the relevant information about how to create your smile design. Digital X-rays aim to create high-resolution images with a lower dose of radiation exposure than film-based X-ray machines.[2] Because of all the advantages, clinical studies have concluded that digital radiography is the future of all X-ray imaging.[3]

  • Quicker dental appointments
  • Easier to transfer dental records
  • Less radiation used for digital imaging
  • Quality of images is greater
  • Less environmental waste

What Can Dental Digital X-rays Reveal?

Dental X-rays are an indispensable tool that help dentists discover problematic conditions and diagnose existing issues.

  • An abscess or a cyst
  • Hidden dental structures and bone loss of the jaw
  • Tumors (both cancerous and non-cancerous)
  • Tooth decay
  • Abnormalities (developmental or caused by events)
  • Weaknesses in teeth and roots of teeth
  • Decay underneath a crown or hidden by a filling
  • Position of teeth in preparation for implants

Types of Digital Dental X-rays


Panoramic X-rays give a broad-spectrum view of the entire region which includes the jaw, sinus cavities, teeth, temporomandibular joints, and nasal cavities. These types of X-rays can reveal conditions such as bone abnormalities, fractures, and infections. They are also used if you are looking for comprehensive teeth straightening or implants.


Bitewing X-rays focus on upper and lower back teeth in a single view. They are designed to reveal tooth decay in the back teeth and can also be effective at diagnosing potential bone loss that results from infections or gum disease.


Periapical X-rays focus on a single tooth. If a patient comes in with complaints about a single tooth that results from an injury or accident, this is the most likely X-ray they will receive.


Occlusal X-rays show both the roof and floor of the mouth. They can show jaw fractures and a cleft palate.

Your Personal Consultation at Old Town Smiles

We can determine if you need X-rays during your personal consultation. Whether you need emergency dental care for a painful tooth or you seek cosmetic dentistry to restore a radiant smile, we will let you know during the consultation whether or not you need X-rays. Our dentists will take the time required to accurately diagnose your condition and offer appropriate recommendations.

Dr. Seema Ahmed was also named by Washingtonian Magazine as a “Top Dentist” in 2019. She’s passionate about conditions that lie in the intersection of medical-dental boundaries. These issues include gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), sleep apnea, and laryngopharyngeal reflux. Dr. Ahmed wants all her patients to feel comfortable, whether they are in for a check-up or in for a diagnosis after years of not seeing a dentist.

If you have a dental issue that might require X-rays, whether reparative or cosmetic, reach out to Old Town Smiles and schedule an appointment online or call our Alexandria, VA office at (703) 836-7000.

What Is the X-ray Process? 

The digital X-ray procedure is straight forward. You will be situated comfortably, either sitting or standing, and given a protective blanket if necessary. Our advanced digital X-rays are superb at collecting the necessary information quickly and efficiently. We can take the X-ray and then immediately use the information during your consultation.

There are a number of reasons why it is better to use digital x- rays

  • Your exposure to X-ray is decreased by 90%.[4]
  • The large enhanced images let you see what your doctor sees.
  • No photo chemicals and film mean digital X-rays are more friendly to the environment.

Related Procedures and Technology

At Old Town Smiles, we use an i-Cat cone beam 3D scanner. The i-Cat represents the latest in dental imaging technology. The i-Cat helps us accurately identify any issues you might have. Dental X-rays are particularly useful for comprehensive dental procedures such as full mouth reconstruction. For any of our restorative procedures, X-rays provide us with invaluable information. Digital X-rays are also extremely useful in any of our cosmetic dental procedures. Digital X-rays are also very important to diagnose conditions such as sleep apnea and TMJ.

How Much Do Digital X-rays Cost in Alexandria, VA?

Every patient has unique conditions. Depending on each patient’s circumstances, they might need different X-rays. We can only provide an accurate price after we look at your dental history, hear your concerns and goals, and conduct an initial evaluation.



Advancements in radiography continually make X-rays safer. Dental X-rays have always emitted less radiation than other types of medical X-rays. But today’s digital X-rays are even safer, exposing patients to up to 90% less radiation than film-based X-rays of the past. Dental X-rays are far less risky than undetected and untreated dental problems.


Most medical literature concludes that modern digital dental X-rays represent an only negligible risk. Patients need not worry about the risk of X-rays for dental work due to such low exposure.[5] If you have any questions regarding the safety of X-rays, we encourage you to ask our dentists during your consultation and they can explain further.


This question depends on every patient. The frequency of necessary dental X-rays will vary depending on your dental genetics, dental care, and circumstances. The typical range to undergo X-rays for healthy adults is between 6 months and 3 years.


  1. Wenzel A, Gröndahl HG. (1995). Direct digital radiography in the dental office. International Dental Journal. 1995 Feb;45(1):27-34. PMID: 7607741 
  2. Ng, K. H., & Rehani, M. M. (2006). X ray imaging goes digital. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)333(7572), 765–766.
  3. Körner, M., Weber, C. H., Wirth, S., Pfeifer, K., Reiser, M. F., & Treitl, M. (2007). Advances in Digital Radiography: Physical Principles and System Overview. RadioGraphics, 27(3), 675-686. doi:10.1148/rg.273065075
  4. Gharehaghaji N, Khezerloo D, Abbasiazar T.  (2019). Image Quality Assessment of the Digital Radiography Units in Tabriz, Iran: A Phantom Study. Journal of Medical Signals and Sensors. 2019 Apr-Jun;9(2):137-142. DOI: 10.4103/jmss.jmss_30_18
  5. Newman, T. (2018). X-ray exposure: How safe are X-rays? (W. Morrison MD, Ed.). Retrieved October 14, 2020, from