Dental X-rays have become a standard part of most dental health exams. They allow your dentist to take an inside look at the deep-down health of your teeth—the roots, nerves, jaw bone, and blood vessels. Dental X-rays allow the dentist to see signs of disease, injury, or damage that they might not otherwise see during a normal exam.
There are several different types of dental X-rays:
- Bitewings – shows the crown portions of the top and bottom teeth
- Periapical – allows the dentist to see one or two complete teeth, crown to root
- Palatal – shows all the upper and lower teeth in one shot
- Panoramic – a machine that rotates around the head and is able to capture images of the whole jaw, sinuses, and teeth in one shot
These X-rays give off a very low amount of radiation, and are safe for most people. To minimize any additional exposure, patients are always given a lead apron to wear while the X-ray is being performed. According to the ADA and Food and Drug Administration Guide to Patient Selection for Dental Radiographs, your dentist will know your health history so they can weigh the benefits and risks of a dental X-ray for your personal situation. So talk to us the next time you’re in the office, or make sure you bring it up with your dentist the next time you have a cleaning.
Using a diagnostic tool like X-rays can allow your dentist to see things they would not otherwise be able to detect during your exam. They will show whether or not you have any cysts, tumors, abscesses or other masses, impacted teeth (like wisdom teeth), and bone loss from periodontal disease. The dental X-ray makes all of these easily visible.
There are several factors for consideration when determining how often you should receive dental X-rays. Your age, dental health, risk factors for gum disease and other periodontal problems, and whether or not you are pregnant are all factors your dentist will weigh. Pregnant women are discouraged from radiation exposure through X-rays, except in emergency situations. Dental X-rays for children may be required more frequently, as they are at more risk for tooth decay than adults, and because there is a lot going on in their mouths. These radiographs (as they are sometimes called) also let the dentist see where the baby and adult teeth are, and when the permanent teeth will appear.
For new patients, a completely new set of dental X-rays is usually recommended. This allows your dentist to get a complete “picture” of the health of your teeth, and helps them know how to treat you going forward. On a normal basis, however, your dentist may recommend dental X-rays every 6 to 24 months, depending on a variety of factors like your individual situation, age, dental health history, and the state of your mouth. There is no set-in-stone guideline for how often you need dental X-rays. Since dental imaging is one of the many services offered at our Charleston dentist office, we can help you determine when and why you should receive them.