What is an x-ray and how often should I have them?
Even the name, x-ray is a little intimidating. Why do you need x-rays? How many are too many? How often should you have them? Are they dangerous? What if another dentist took them? What if I don't want x-rays? These are all important and often asked questions.
What are x-rays and what do they do?
With some different characteristics x-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation much like visible light. However the important difference is that x-rays can penetrate or pass through human body structure and produce a shadow like image showing signs of disease or injury. Another characteristic of x-rays that makes it different from light is that it carries much more energy and deposits a part of this energy within the body as it passes through. It is the absorbed energy that has the potential to produce biological effects within the tissues. However, the amount absorbed known as the radiation dose during dental treatments is very low.
Why do you need x-rays?
Dental x-rays are an important diagnostic tool that helps the dentist detect damage and disease between your teeth and surrounding tissues that cannot ordinarily be seen in the mouth during routine dental examinations. In addition, x-rays help your dentist find and treat dental problems early in their development, which can potentially save you money and unnecessary discomfort.
What problems can dental x-rays detect?
Areas of decay that may not be visible with an oral examination
Identify decay occurring beneath an existing filling
Reveal bone loss
Reveal changes in the bone or in the root canal resulting from infection
Assist in the preparation of tooth implants, braces or dentures
Reveal abscesses (infections)
Reveal other developmental abnormalities, such as cysts and some types of tumours
In children dental X-rays are especially important to:
Check for decay
Determine if there is enough space in the mouth to fit all incoming teeth
Determine if primary teeth are being lost quickly enough to allow permanent teeth to erupt properly
Check for the development of wisdom teeth and identify if the teeth are impacted
How often should someone have an x-ray?
How often X-rays should be taken depends on your present oral health, your age, your risk for disease, and any signs and symptoms of oral disease. X-rays are usually recommended by dentists every six to 24 months depending on the individual patient. If you are a new patient, the dentist will recommend X-rays to determine the present status of your oral health and have a baseline to help identify changes that may occur later. People who fall into the high-risk category who may need X-rays taken more frequently include smokers, those with gum disease, active caries and oral health conditions such as dry mouth.
What if another dentist took them?
If paid for, your x-rays are yours and you can request to have them sent to your new dentist if you wish.
What if I don’t want x-rays?
It is entirely up to you if you wish not to have x-rays taken. However this does mean the dentist has less of a chance at detecting early decay and preventing it from becoming worse resulting in a bigger cavity.