Dental x-rays are essential in preventing and treating dental diseases. Yet many people don’t know exactly what they are or how they work.
To get the facts about dental x-rays, keep reading for answers to common questions about this integral part of your dental health care!
What Is a Dental X-Ray?
A dental x-ray (or a radiograph) is a safe way for your dentist to get a close look at what’s going on inside your mouth. It involves placing a small, thin film behind or in front of your teeth and exposing it to radiation.
The radiation produces an image seen on a computer monitor. This allows your dentist to identify issues such as broken teeth or infections. These might not be visible during an examination with the naked eye.
Why Are Dental X-Rays Important?
X-rays are an essential part of a comprehensive dental exam. Dentists and hygienists may use them regularly as a tool to assess oral health during visits. During an x-ray procedure, invisible rays pass through your mouth onto film or a digital sensor.
Because x-rays pass through soft tissue like gums and teeth, they help identify hidden issues like cavities, cracks, or fractured fillings that you wouldn’t see with visual inspection alone. Additionally, they can help diagnose facial trauma such as broken bones around your jaw or cheekbone. These could be due to previous accidents, car accidents, or even sports injuries.
How Many Times Do I Need to Get My Teeth X-Rayed?
While you should consult with your dentist if they recommend additional x-rays, there are certain guidelines you can follow. In general, dentists recommend dental x-rays annually for children and every two years for adults.
These recommendations may vary depending on your risk factors, so discussing them with your dentist is important. If a tooth looks like it might be having an issue or not developing properly, more frequent x-rays may be necessary.
Generally, all you need between appointments is an occasional trip to get your teeth cleaned. Don’t hesitate to let your dentist know if you have any pain or unusual symptoms that need addressing sooner rather than later.
Are There Any Risks Involved with Having Dental X-Rays Taken?
Although taking dental x-rays can be discomforting, you shouldn’t have any major concerns as long as your dentist uses high-quality equipment and follows proper protocol. You may experience temporary discomfort immediately after exposure to a large dose of radiation. This equals about two minutes of flying at 30,000 feet.
For example, your throat might feel dry, or you notice a slight tingling sensation on your tongue. However, there’s no indication that people who receive dental x-rays are at higher risk for cancer than those who don’t. In fact, research shows that not having dental x-rays causes more damage than the radiation risks from having them. This is because diseases and damages to your teeth could be missed.
Additionally, if you are pregnant you should talk to your dentist prior to having x-rays. While it is generally considered a safe procedure for pregnant women, some studies show a correlation between dental x-rays during pregnancy and low birth weight. Although, other studies dispute those findings.