Dental X-Rays: Why They’re Important
Many patients feel that Dental X-rays or radiographs are not necessary if they are not having any pain or issues with their teeth. However, x-rays are used to detect damage and disease that may not be felt or visible to the eye. X-rays are also used to evaluate a patient’s periodontal status and used to check for any oral pathology like oral cancers, cysts, and tumors.
Typically, the type of x-rays taken during a routine dental visit are bitewings and/or a panoramic image. Bitewings are used to evaluate the mouth for decay and periodontal disease while the panoramic image is used to evaluate the entire jaw structure for any abnormalities or the presence of wisdom teeth. Although both types of images require very low levels of radiation, they are completely safe to take. Even so, every safety precaution such as a lead apron with a thyroid collar will be used to minimize radiation exposure. If necessary, x-rays are safe to take during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or if you are trying to become pregnant.
A common question most patients have regarding x-rays is “how often should I have them?” Frequency can depend on a number of factors, such as oral health status, risk for disease, health, age, and any signs and symptoms of disease. Children may need x-rays more often as the teeth and jaw structure are still developing, and the teeth are more likely to be affected by decay. Ultimately, bitewing radiographs are typically taken once a year while the panoramic radiograph is taken about every 3 to 5 years.
The bottom line is x-rays are extremely important and absolutely necessary to perform a thorough, comprehensive exam. Your dentist will review your history, examine, your mouth, and determine your specific needs for dental x-rays. As always, patient safety is of the upmost importance, so please don’t hesitate to share any concerns during your next appointment.
Emily H., RDH