You are probably aware of dental X-rays from your visit to the dentist, but what is the purpose of X-rays, and why do we need them?
Dental X-rays, also known as radiographs, are used by the dentist to diagnose dental disease or damage that can not be visible during an oral clinical examination.
How do X-rays work
A small amount of electromagnetic radiation is used during a dental X-ray to create an X-ray image of your teeth, roots, jaws, and facial bones.
Dental X-rays work by sending a type of energy absorbed by solid objects such as teeth and fillings but passes through soft tissue that are less dense like the skin.
The solid objects that absorb the energy appear lighter on an X-ray image. This gives the dentist a clear image of your teeth and can help them treat dental problems early such as bone loss due to periodontal disease or cavities.
How Often are X-rays Taken?
The frequency of dental X-rays should be based on past dental work, cavity risk assessment and the overall state of the patient’s oral health.
Most dentists recommend X-rays once a year, but some people may need them more often depending on their medical and dental history. For both children and adults, dental checkups should be done twice a year. This will be spread throughout the whole year, falling every six months. During this period, one of the checkups should include dental X-rays to check the health of the teeth and jaws underneath the surface. However, dentists will not allow any unnecessary radiation exposure if the problem you have can be diagnosed without x-rays.
Other Factors that May Warrant an X- Ray
Other factors that may warrant X-rays include
- Orthodontic treatment requires X-rays to see the positioning of the teeth within the jaw.
- A severe stage of gum disease can cause bone loss. An X-ray can show how severe the bone loss is.
- After trauma or an injury to the teeth or jaws.
- Wisdom teeth eruption.
- Decay beneath existing fillings
- To see the extent of a cavity
- To evaluate whether a tooth may be fractured
- To check for pathologies within the bone, such as cancer
When do we take a full X-ray set?
It is recommended to take a set of bitewings (an x-ray showing details of the upper and lower teeth in one of the mouth’s areas) once a year and a full mouth series once every three years.
If you experience pain after an X-ray, additional X-rays may be required to diagnose what is going on.
Radiation levels from dental X-rays
Getting dental X-rays is extremely safe as digital dental X-rays use less radiation to capture a high-resolution image. The radiation exposure is almost 90% reduced with a digital x-ray, which is what we use at North Point Dental Associates.
Since children are smaller, doctors reduce the amount of medical radiation emitted by the camera when dealing with children.
Dental X-ray radiation compared to other radiation.
Since radiation is naturally created in the environment (background radiation), the exposure from a full set of dental x-rays can be compared to a day in the sun.
You can expect to accumulate a certain amount of radiation in normal daily activity. However, each x-ray is an individual dose and not constant exposure. A single dental X-ray, a type used to capture a single tooth, is less then spending one day outside.