What Happens When I Take A Dental X-ray?
Digital dental x-rays, the choice of our office and the popular choice among dentists today, use a very small amount of electromagnetic radiation to capture an image of your teeth and their surrounding structures.
Why Do I Need X-rays?
These images (radiographs) are the ONLY way a dentist can diagnose certain problems, including: cavities between the teeth, bone infections, types of benign and malignant tumors, bone loss and impacted wisdom teeth. Without them, your provider is limited in the care they can provide, and may not be able to see a problem early enough for it to be successfully and conservatively treated.
Types Of X-rays
There are many types of x-rays, each with a different purpose and recommended frequency. This will vary depending on the patient and the situation, but generally, the ones we like to have for our patients are:
Bitewing x-rays: These are cavity detection x-rays that allow the doctor to see in between your back teeth, one of the most common spots for cavities to develop. We like to get a set of these every year, and they’re comprised of 2 images on each side.
Periapical x-ray: Sometimes, the doctor just needs a focused image of a specific area, whether because they see something suspicious or because the patient is experiencing discomfort. This single x-ray gives them a clear view of the entire tooth.
We Care About Our Patients
If we determine that another type of imaging is needed for proper diagnosis or treatment, we will refer you to a trusted colleague where you can have the X-ray taken.
Common Concerns About X-rays
I don’t have time!
Taking digital x-rays adds, at most, 5 minutes to any given appointment, making them a quick and invaluable part of your examination.
They are too uncomfortable
A lot of this fear stems from memories of the extremely uncomfortable full mouth x-rays of old, which used 18 separate films to get a complete picture of your teeth. New technology means no more uncomfortable film, smaller sensors and faster image capture
I don’t want all that radiation!
This is by far the most frequent complaint we hear, and the biggest myth in need of dispelling. Especially given the advent of digital images, radiation exposure from x-rays is minimal. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that the average person is exposed to roughly 620 millirem per year, which has been judged to be perfectly safe for humans and of which half comes from natural sources. In contrast, a single digital dental x-ray is about 0.1 millirem. To put that in context, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements pegs the occupational radiation exposure limit at a whopping 5000 millirem per year, or around 5000 times what you’d get from a set of yearly x-rays. It’s about the equivalent of exposure from a cross country flight, and a completely worthwhile cost to ensure your oral and systemic health.
To put this exposure into more context:
Two hours in a jet plane = 1 millirem
Living in a brick house = 7 millirem per year
Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day = 36 millirem a year
Breast mammogram (per breast) = 42 millirem