Dental X-Rays: a Real way to diagnose your dental health.

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 second eyes of a dentist. They reveal decay which 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. 

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/LcuF5Jf4EHZUZCGUUHy2uGL4IMRw0y28sJ0Jc6SstTZW9dNd34nkWvO_0GqRHcRWMj8HEYZ_CginZeobfAHz8xD5HpywjkgNvopUC2ms4ZILpwuoNNUzuDLMFvRf-Xg_qY3VQz8

Panoramic X-rays on the other hand, are very 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.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/I3VlKX4_8FtOPSGarc8Te0j_AMrBENG_Xhuh1s9mCDsC3K-BMUydOjDa5VgV9xHN-d2oj41hnGjmZNZNqHc8ePdU6ihxc7wOLnVwgSkh6EaLLuCQtfmMsvBWc50Zx8F8seumPSM

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Dental X-rays involve brief exposure to low levels of radiation, 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.