A Guide on Dental X-rays and Safety of Digital Dental X-rays

Dental x-rays are very important in a dentist’s assessment of the patient. They do not take place of visual check-ups, but complement dentist’s review of the patient’s medical and dental history and clinical examination to create a more accurate evaluation and provide the best treatment options.

Dentists rely on this diagnostic tool for various reasons. Although biting surface cavities can be detected visually, ones between the teeth can only be seen in radiographs (x-rays). Radiographs can also expose more complicated dental problems like abscesses or tumors, as well as gum disease and bone loss. Dental x-rays reveal the state of root canals, dental fillings and dental bridges as well.

Most dental problems cannot be detected with a visual check-up alone and early recognition of these problems makes treatment more affordable and oftentimes less painful. With all these benefits, it is not surprising that dentists recommend dental x-rays every six to twelve months depending on the patient’s risk for dental decay.

Dental x-rays work by passing a small amount of radiation through the mouth. Hard tissues such as bone and teeth absorb the ray and when it strikes a film or a digital sensor for digital dental x-rays (like in our office) an image is produced. These images are then evaluated by a dentist.

Digital dental x-rays are a dental x-ray upgrade and the latest in dental technology which we proudly feature. It produces computer images in an instant as there is no need to process films. However, the best advantage of digital dental x-rays over the non-digital types is lower radiation. They cut down radiation by 80 percent, making it a safer choice for our patients.

Many people worry about radiation exposure, especially those who are pregnant or suffering from an illness like cancer. Parents are also concerned about their kids’ exposure to radiation. Truth is, dental x-rays, especially digital dental x-rays, produce a very small amount of radiation. With current safety procedures, such as wearing a lead apron during x-rays to shield the body from unnecessary radiation and allow the x-ray to focus on the intended body parts only, the amount of radiation is negligible. Undetected dental problems pose higher risk to the health of the patient than receiving the low amount of radiation emitted by digital dental x-rays. Walking through a sunlit parking lot from a building to your car exudes much more radiation than digital x-rays do.

Children often need x-rays more frequently than adults for a number of reasons. First, they are more prone to tooth decay and decay moves faster through the thin layers of baby teeth. Second, their mouths, jaws, and teeth are developing and changing fast. Third, pediatric dentists will often “monitor” developing decay and exfoliation schedule of the teeth in order to only do necessary procedures but protect their patients from infections at the same time, but they can only do that through consistent radiographic examination. New patients over the age of three get a full radiographic examination, but after that frequency of x-rays depends on the child’s risk for dental decay.