Dental x-rays are special images that allow your dentist to get a closer look at some of the structures inside your mouth including your teeth, roots, jawline, and facial structure. They can also analyze your bite patterns using these x-rays.
The process involves placing an x-ray film in a piece of cardboard or plastic, which your dentist will ask you to bite down on. you may be asked to repeat this process several times in different positions. You will also be asked to wear a protective apron to prevent unwanted radiation from entering the body.
Dental x-rays scan for:
- Tooth decay, or cavities, in between teeth
- Infections in the bones of your mouth
- Symptoms of gum disease
- An abscess, cyst, or tumor in your mouth
- Changes in your teeth or bones
- Problems with the ligaments that hold your teeth in place
- Dental developmental problems (mostly for children)
- The location of an impacted or unerupted tooth (a tooth stuck in your gum tissue or bone)
Who Gets Dental X-rays?
If you are a first-time patient to a certain dentist, he or she will likely want to take a set of dental x-rays unless your previous dentist sent copies of your recent x-ray. These initial x-rays are used to determine overall oral health and look for any future problems. They also serve as a comparison tool as time goes by and your mouth changes.
You will then be told how many other x-rays you may need to see changes. The interval of these follow up x-rays will depend on your age, oral health, and risk of having dental problems. For example, those who have a history of oral cancer will have frequent x-rays, while young children will also need x-rays as their new teeth come in. Those who have fully developed teeth but are in their mid-20s will need x-rays less often than other counterparts.
Risks of Dental X-rays
X-rays are one of the most commonly used tools for medical screening and diagnosis, but they are not without risks. The most worrisome issue associated with dental x-rays is a small increase in the risk of developing cancer, which is associated with exposure to radiation. The more x-rays you get throughout your lifetime and the younger you are when you have the x-rays, the higher your risk of developing cancer. There is also evidence that women are more susceptible to developing cancer caused by x-ray radiation exposure than men.
Still, in most cases, the benefits of having x-rays done outweigh the potential risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has some recommendations to help people avoid unnecessary x-rays:
- Bring a copy of previous X-rays to your new dentist to avoid having unnecessary, repeated x-rays.
- Ask that a lead apron or other protective shield be used when you are getting an x-ray.
You should also avoid having dental x-rays if you’re pregnant, since there may be a risk to your unborn baby. If you inform your dentist that you are pregnant but they still recommend you take an x-ray, remember that the amount of radiation exposure is limited and that dental health is important to the baby as well.
For more information regarding dental x-rays or to schedule an initial appointment and scan with us, call our office so we can set up a meeting.