One of the most important topics in dentistry and one difficult for parents to understand are dental X-rays. Some parents are quite worried about dental X-rays because they assume that X-rays may increase the risk of cancer in the child. Like any other dental treatment, dental X-rays provide a safe and sound examination of your oral health. Before demonstrating the safety of dental X-rays let’s talk about why dental X-rays are important in the first place. Dental X-rays are like the second eyes of a dentist. They reveal decay that is not visible to the naked eye for instance; a decayed gum/tooth, deeply hidden cavities, bone damage, abscesses, cysts, and tumors can only be observed through dental X-rays. Hence the X-rays of teeth are undeniably important in the diagnosis of dental ailments and treatment planning. Bite-wing X-rays are used to detect caries between teeth or even sometimes under the teeth. Following is a Bitewing X-ray showing interproximal caries (caries between the teeth), that can’t be seen by naked eyes. They can only be detected by X-rays.
Panoramic X-rays on the other hand, are essential in detecting missing or extra teeth. Following are some sample cases of Panoramic X-rays showing the patient has eight congenital missing permanent teeth.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe? Dental X-rays involve brief exposure to low radiation levels, but they are considered safe. The short exposure time and digital sensors reduce radiation exposure to as low as possible. X-rays are generally also taken when needed, which further reduces exposure. A routine examination which usually includes 2 bitewings 0.005 mSv and maybe panoramic X-ray 0.010 mSv is less than natural background radiation. If you are flying on a long flight you are probably more exposed to radiation than dental X-rays. Moreover, a dentist should always put a thyroid collar around their patient to protect them from the intensity of radiation. Why do dentists leave the room during an X-ray? Usually, the dental examination team takes multiple X-rays in a day, so to limit the amount of radiation for themselves, they move away from the X-ray beams. How often should you have X-rays? According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, routinely X-rays are taken every 6 months or 1 year depending on the patient (decay risk, age, condition of the mouth). https://www.aapd.org/globalassets/media/policies_guidelines/bp_radiographs.pdf ( source) Like brushing and flossing, getting regular dental X-rays is an integral part of your overall oral health. Having a good checkup can be a relief, but this doesn’t mean you should never get a dental examination with X-rays! Be sure to commit to your 6 months recall appointments and see your dentist sooner if you experience any harsh pain or abnormal issues in your mouth.