What is a Dental X-ray?
Dental radiographs (X-rays) are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental examination. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without X-rays, problem areas may go undetected.
Digital radiography (digital X-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental X-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of an X-ray film) to capture and store the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged, helping the dentist and dental hygienist to detect problems more easily. Digital X-rays reduce radiation by 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays.
Benefits of a Dental X-ray
Dental X-rays may reveal:
- Abscesses or cysts
- Bone loss
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors
- Decay between teeth
- Developmental abnormalities
- Poor tooth and root positions
- Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort and your teeth!
Are dental X-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of X-rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources.
Dental X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Your dentist takes necessary precautions to limit your exposure to radiation when taking dental X-rays. These precautions include using lead apron shields to protect the body and using modern, fast-film that cuts down the exposure time of each X-ray.
Digital X-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental X-rays. Not only are digital X-rays better for the safety of the patient, they are faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental clinic. Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the X-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.
Even though digital X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient's exposure to radiation.
How often should dental X-rays be taken?
The need for dental X-rays depends on your individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary X-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental examination, signs and symptoms, age and risk for disease.
A full-mouth series of dental X-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing X-rays (X-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems.
For extractions, particularly wisdom teeth, an orthopentogram (OPG) is needed to examine the entire jaw. When considering orthodontics an OPG and an encephalogram (CEP) are needed.