If you haven't been to the dentist in a long time, you'll probably need to have an x-ray so the dentist can assess the health of your teeth. You may be concerned about exposing yourself to radiation and wonder if x-rays are absolutely necessary. Here's what you need to know about dental x-rays.
Why X-Rays Are Needed
An x-ray can detect a cavity or crack in your tooth the dentist may not find during a physical examination. Plus, the dentist can look at the x-ray for signs of an abscessed tooth, tumor, cyst, or bone disease. When a dentist sees you for the first time, it's very difficult to understand the health of your mouth without looking at an x-ray. Once you're an established patient, ongoing x-rays may be needed to monitor the health of your teeth and check on the effectiveness of dental work such as implants. If you're changing dentists, be sure to have your old dental records transferred so your new dentist can see your old x-rays. If you've had a recent x-ray, you may not need a new one on your first visit to the dentist. However, your dentist will probably recommend one at some point.
Types Of X-Rays
There are two basic types of x-ray tests. One is the bitewing x-ray. For this one, you need to bite down on a small piece of film that's placed in your mouth. It is used to see small cavities between your teeth that are very hard to see on a physical examination.
A panoramic x-ray is more comprehensive. This one is taken outside of your mouth and it produces a panoramic picture of your teeth, bones, and roots all on one film. This allows your dentist to detect gum and bone disease as well as root infections. Previous dental work can be checked to make sure it is still sound, and your dentist can check for signs of oral cancer or other abnormal growths in your mouth.
How Often They're Done
The American Dental Association has recommendations for the frequency of dental x-rays. However, your dentist will take those into account along with your health history and current dental problems to determine when an x-ray is necessary.
The ADA recommends an x-ray for all new dental patients. If you have a history of a lot of cavities and are at risk for developing more, your dentist may order x-rays as often as every six months. If you have rarely had cavities, you may go 2-3 years between x-rays. If your dentist is checking for the development of cavities, you'll probably only need to have bitewing x-rays on your checkups.
If you choose a reputable dentist with modern equipment, you can rest assured the radiation exposure you receive during a dental x-ray is not enough to cause damage. Fast film speeds reduce your exposure to radiation, and you will be protected with a thyroid collar and lead apron during the test. When it comes to dental x-rays, the benefits far outweigh the risks, so you shouldn't have cause for worry. However, discuss any concerns you have with your dentist, and be sure to let him or her know about all of your medical conditions, including if you are pregnant.
For more information, contact Jeremy Archibald DDS PC or a similar location.