Dental X-rays are an integral part of proper dental care. Most of us pose the question…Why do I need to have x-rays?? For starters, dental x-rays give your dentist a view of many oral issues that are not visible to the naked eye. This “photograph” of your dental skeleton allows your dentist information to make a better diagnosis, find potentially dangerous issues and keep your dental health where it should be. Without routine dental x-rays small issues can develop into much bigger ones.
Benefits Of Dental X-Rays
A dental x-ray gives your dentist a closer look at the teeth, the surrounding bones, the jaws, dental decay, infection, and disease of your oral cavity. The following are some of the benefits of dental x-rays:
-Detection Of Tooth Decay. While a dentist can see some tooth decay during your visual and manual examination, they are unable to see between the teeth, under fillings, and below the gum line. A dental x-ray can allow a much better view of damage to the teeth, and roots.
-Presence Of Tumors In The Bone. A tumor can develop undetected inside the bone. If dental x-rays are taken routinely, it often gives the dentist the ability to detect developing tumors at an early stage. Some tumors are harmless, while others are quite aggressive leading to loss of jaw bone and teeth. The best prognosis for treatment of tumors depends upon early diagnosis.
-Diagnosis Of Periodontal Disease. One of the key tools in diagnosis periodontal disease are dental x-rays. Once periodontal disease develops past its earliest stages there will be loss of supporting bone. Using dental x-rays your dentist can see the progression and even the improvement once treatment begins. Without early diagnosis, the periodontal disease will progress, and proper treatment to slow progression will not occur.
-Infections. These will be noted on dental x-rays as dark spots in the bone. An infection in the bone can be very destructive and if left untreated can lead to facial swellings, lost teeth, lost bone, pain, and may be potentially life threatening.
-Locate Teeth. Some teeth do not develop properly, are extremely out of position, may not be present, may have extra teeth, or tooth fragments may be impacted in the bone. It is important to know what is or is not a potential problem, and some may need to be extracted or re-directed by an orthodontist so as not to harm other teeth.
-Check For Children’s Development. Dental x-rays give your dentist the ability to check your child’s development and ensure all the teeth are developing properly. Knowledge ahead of time will help you plan ahead for space management issues (crowding), growth management issues (upper and lower jaws severely out of alignment), lack of permanent tooth development (may require maintaining baby teeth for a much longer time period), extra teeth (usually require extraction).
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
This is a common concern especially among new parents. It is important to note that dental x-rays use very little radiation. Most people living in the United States today are exposed to a 100 times more radiation in a single year just from environmental sources. Remember not to confuse medical x-rays and dental x-rays. Medical x-rays use significant amounts of radiation while dental x-rays are extremely low radiation exposure. Your dentist will take all the necessary precautions in limiting your exposure. This includes the following:
-Follow the ALARA Principle. ALARA stands for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable”.
-Use Of The Fastest Speed Film.
-Using As Small An X-Ray Beam As Possible.
-Use Of Lead Aprons.
-Following ADA standards of care in # and frequency with which x-rays are taken.
Dental X-Rays Conclusion
If you are concerned about dental x-ray safety speak to your dentist. A good dentist will be open to your concerns and attempt to alleviate your fears while keeping you safe. If you are seeing a new dentist for the first time, request copies of your old x-rays from your previous dentist. This may help limit new x-rays being taken but also give your new dentist a history of progression of any issues you might have been developing.
Dental x-rays are an important part of a thorough dental examination. While there may be some precautions to take, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks of not having dental x-rays. See your dentist regularly for routine dental examinations and x-rays to diagnose issues early, before they become larger, more dangerous problems.