X-rays shine a light on what can’t be seen with the naked eye
Why They’re Imporant
Dental X-rays are a valuable part of dental treatment because they can detect damage to teeth and gums that aren’t visible during a routine checkup. X-rays can show the condition of your teeth, their roots, your jaw placement and the overall composition of your facial bones. X-rays can help your dentist determine the presence or degree of gum disease, cavities, abscesses and many abnormal growths, such as cysts and tumors, and also impacted teeth or teeth that have not yet fully developed. Additionally, X-rays help your dentist find and treat dental problems early in their development, which can potentially save you money, unnecessary discomfort, and maybe even your life.
There are two main types of X-rays: intraoral and extraoral. Intraoral X-rays are the most common type of dental X-ray taken and provide a lot of detail, allowing your dentist to find cavities, 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 the main focus is the jaw and skull, and are used to look for impacted teeth, monitor growth and development of the jaw in relation to the teeth and to identify potential problems between teeth, jaw and TMJ joint.
Benefits to the Patient
For adults, dental X-rays can be used to show areas of decay that may not be visible with an oral exam, especially small areas of decay between teeth or beneath an existing filling. They can also reveal bone loss that accompanies gum disease, abscesses and other developmental abnormalities, such as cysts and some types of tumors.
For children, X-rays are used to watch for decay, determine if there is enough space in the mouth to fit all incoming teeth, determine if primary teeth are being lost quickly enough to allow for permanent teeth to come in properly, and also check for the development of wisdom teeth and identify if the teeth are impacted.
The frequency of getting X-rays depends on your medical and dental history and current condition. Some people may need X-rays as often as six months, others with no recent dental or gum disease and who visit their dentist regularly may get X-rays every year, or as recommended by their dentist. If you are a new patient, your dentist may take X-rays as part of their initial exam and to establish a baseline record from which to compare changes that may occur over time. However, people who fall into the high risk category might need to take X-rays more frequently, and include people who have gum disease, drink a lot of sugary beverages, have dry mouths and smokers.
Are X-rays Harmful?
Many people opt out of getting X-rays because of their fear of radiation, however, the pros greatly outweigh the cons, especially with advances in digital dentistry. Radiation exposure associated with dentistry represents a minor contribution to the total exposure from all sources and is even less than the radiation you get from flying on a plane! Current technology allows for dentists to use digital imaging, meaning that X-rays are sent directly to a computer and can be viewed on screen. The benefits of digital imaging include less radiation, no wait time to develop, images can be electronically sent, and dentists are able to digitally compare images on screen.
Make sure you make your dental health a priority and listen to the recommendations of your dentist so you can smile happy and healthy!