Dental Radiographs are commonly called x-rays. Dentists use radiographs for many reasons: to find hidden dental structures, malignant or benign masses, bone loss, and cavities.
There are two main types of dental X-rays: intraoral (meaning the X-ray film is inside the mouth) and extraoral (meaning the X-ray film is outside the mouth).
Intraoral X-rays are the most common type of X-ray taken. You've probably had many sets of these X-rays taken in your life already. These X-rays provide a lot of detail and allow your dentist to find caries, check the health of the tooth root and bone surrounding the tooth, check the status of developing teeth, and monitor the general health of your teeth and jawbone.
Extraoral X-rays show teeth, but their main focus is the jaw and skull. These X-rays do not provide the detail found with intraoral X-rays and therefore are not used for detecting caries or for identifying problems with individual teeth. Instead, extraoral X-rays are used to look for impacted teeth, monitor growth and development of the jaws in relation to the teeth, and to identify potential problems between teeth and jaw and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or other bones of the face. (See the document, "Temporomandibular Disorders" for more information. )