About Your Teeth Why Do I Need Dental X-Rays? - About Your Teeth

Q & A's

Why do I need dental x-rays?

  • Dental x-rays bitewings

Dental x-rays help your dentist see underlying issue not obvious to the naked eye. The arrows show dental decay and the areas most commonly affected by dental decay.

Do you really need dental X-rays?

Yes, absolutely. Dental X-rays are a screening procedure that allows the dentist to get “the full picture” and to understand what is going on in your mouth. The X-ray will identify issues with your teeth that cannot be seen by direct examination. They may indicate that you have no problems and all…

Dental decay can take 12-18 months to get to the stage where you need a filling. Regular X-rays help dentists pick up problems early and keep the solutions to these problems simple and small. That means less costly! Read on to find out how often you should be having X-rays of your mouth and teeth.

Why X-rays?

X-rays, also known as radiographs, capture images of the parts of your mouth your dentist can’t see. An X-ray beam is directed at the area of interest and passes through the various structures in it’s path. Hard tissues like bones and teeth block more of the beam than softer gum and cheek tissues as the beam travels to the film/sensor surface. The beam that reaches the film creates a picture that clearly shows differences between these types of tissues. What does all that mean? Your dentist can use X-ray technology to uncover the deepest, darkest secrets of your mouth – decay, gum disease, infection, tooth cracks, bone loss and other problems that aren’t visible to the naked eye.

Decay occurs most commonly between the teeth, and you can’t see between the teeth. A visual exam is not enough and it is possible to miss the signs of early decay.The most common X-ray is the bitewing X-ray that focuses specifically on the areas between the teeth. This is the most common site for dental decay.
Other X-rays are used to examine the tooth root, or the jaw and supporting structures.

Who should have them?

Everyone should have X-rays taken. If you’ve just changed dentists, a fresh set of X-rays will give your new primary care dentist a complete picture of your teeth and gums. It will also make future changes easier to spot because you’ll have the initial set for comparison. But you may not need X-rays every time you have a checkup. Once your dentist has an idea of your susceptibility to dental disease, they can suggest the best time for a repeat investigation. In general, the healthier your mouth and the cleaner you teeth, the less frequently you will need to have X-rays taken.

Kids, on the other hand, have different oral care needs: They have thinner tooth enamel than adults, their jaws are still growing and their teeth are still developing. They may need more frequent X-rays than their parents, especially if they have a history of cavities and dental decay. If you miss a series of X-rays on a child with a high decay rate, you’re could end up with some serious problems.

How often should you have dental X-rays?

Your dentist will make a recommendation based on your oral health, whether that turns out to be twice a year or every two years. Some patients resist X-rays even when their dentist suggests them. But that can lead to trouble. Every dentist can show cases where they discovered a huge problem that could have been fixed years earlier while it was small – “if only we’d taken an X-ray.”

Are they safe?

Experts will tell you: A dental X-ray is far from dangerous. The amount of radiation you’re exposed to in full mouth X-ray series is only about 1/23 of the radiation you’re already getting from natural sources each year. And with new digital X-ray technology that replaces the old film method, the radiation is reduced further.

In fact, not getting X-rays can be riskier. If your preschooler has a cavity, odds are high that there are several other unseen cavities between his or her teeth and you need an X-ray to track them down. If you’re pregnant and have a dental infection, failure to diagnose and treat it could be more dangerous for your baby than the X-ray itself.

Even though the level of radiation is low, precautions are taken to minimise your exposure. The X-ray machine focuses the radiation only on your mouth, and you can wear a lead apron and collar to protect other parts of your body. Your dentist and his or her staff have been thoroughly trained in taking X-rays, and the equipment itself is inspected regularly.

If your dentist recommends an X-ray of your mouth, feel assured it will safeguard your health, not threaten it.
“The benefit outweighs the low risk.”

Types of dental x-rays

There are several types of x-rays that dentists commonly use in the diagnosis of dental disease and in the planning of dental treatment. These include:

⋅ Bitewing (BW)
⋅ Periapical (PA)
⋅ Orthopantomograph (OPG)
⋅ Computerised Tomography  (CT/CBCT)

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