Different Types of X-Rays

As we venture further into our dental insurance training, it’s crucial to familiarize ourselves with the different types of dental x-rays and their implications for insurance coverage. 


Dental x-rays are invaluable tools in diagnosing and monitoring oral health conditions, but their coverage under dental insurance plans can vary. Understanding the intricacies of these x-rays will equip us to navigate insurance claims effectively and provide the best care for our patients.


  • Bitewing X-rays: Bitewing x-rays are commonly used for detecting cavities and assessing the health of the posterior teeth. These x-rays show the upper and lower molars and premolars and are essential in identifying early signs of decay between teeth. Dental insurance plans often cover bitewing x-rays, considering them a vital component of preventive care.
  • Periapical X-rays: Periapical x-rays capture the entire tooth structure, from the crown to the tip of the root. These x-rays are valuable in diagnosing dental infections, abscesses, and other issues that affect the tooth’s root and surrounding bone. Dental insurance plans typically include coverage for periapical x-rays as part of basic diagnostic services.
  • Panoramic X-rays: Panoramic x-rays provide a broad view of the entire mouth, including all the teeth, jaws, and surrounding structures. These x-rays aid in assessing impacted teeth, jaw issues, and the overall alignment of the dental arches. While panoramic x-rays offer extensive diagnostic information, not all dental insurance plans cover them, and prior authorization may be required.
  • Full Mouth Series: A full mouth series, also known as a complete series or FMX, consists of multiple periapical and bitewing x-rays. It provides a comprehensive view of all teeth and their supporting structures. While FMX is a comprehensive diagnostic tool, dental insurance coverage may vary, and some plans might limit the frequency of full mouth series to once every few years.
  • Cephalometric X-rays: Cephalometric x-rays focus on capturing the side profile of the face, including the skull, jawbone, and soft tissues. These x-rays are primarily used in orthodontics to assess facial growth and plan for orthodontic treatments. Cephalometric x-rays are less common in general dentistry, and dental insurance coverage for them may be limited or excluded.
  • Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT): CBCT is an advanced imaging technique that provides three-dimensional images of the teeth, jaws, and surrounding structures. It is especially valuable for complex dental procedures, implant planning, and assessing impacted teeth. Due to its sophisticated nature, CBCT may not be covered by all dental insurance plans, or it might require pre-authorization.


As dental staff, it’s essential to communicate clearly with patients about the necessity and coverage of different x-rays. Proper documentation and accurate coding play a vital role in facilitating insurance claims for dental x-rays. When submitting claims, ensure that the specific type of x-ray is clearly indicated, and any supporting documentation, such as the dentist’s notes, is attached.


Remember that dental insurance plans can vary widely in their coverage of x-rays, and it’s essential to verify each patient’s plan details before proceeding with any imaging procedures. By being well-informed and proactive in navigating dental insurance coverage for x-rays, we can optimize patient care and ensure a seamless experience for all. Let’s continue to expand our expertise in this area and provide the best possible support to our patients and dental practice alike.