Wondering about x-rays?

June 6, 2017

When your dentist has suggested an x-ray, have you ever wondered what they were looking for? Does it feel like you’re always having x-rays? Do you worry about the impact of the radiation? In today’s article, we’ll be taking a closer look at x-rays, and answering some of the most common questions we receive.

Why do we need to have x-rays?

There are many reasons for having x-rays. Fundamentally, they allow dentists to look beyond what they can ordinarily see in your mouth during their normal inspection. X-rays allow dentists to see under the enamel on your teeth, to see the roots of your teeth, and the bone around each tooth. None of these areas can be seen by your dentist when they look in your mouth, but they are the areas where problems often begin. Some oral health complaints, such as tooth decay, have no visible signs in your mouth in the early stages, and x-rays can highlight the problem much earlier on. This often makes such problems easier and more straightforward to treat. In childhood, x-rays can help dentists to monitor the development of adult teeth.

How often should I expect to have an x-ray?

The frequency of x-rays depends on factors such as your age and dental history. For most people, x-rays will be recommended between every 6-24 months. However, if you move to a new surgery it is likely your new dentist will take x-rays at your first visit to help them get to know your mouth.

Are all x-rays the same?

No, there are several types of x-ray that are used. Some look at your whole mouth, whereas others look at a much smaller area, for example just one or two teeth. In addition to x-rays, technological advances mean that it is now possible for electronic imaging to take place. Electronic probes are used as an alternative to x-ray films. Images are sent directly to a screen.

Is it safe?

Patients sometimes ask us about the safety of x-rays. The risk posed is minimal, as the amount of radiation exposure is so small. In fact, we can expect to be exposed to more radiation through our normal day to day environment than through a dental x-ray. However, your dentists will use them sparingly, and will be considerate of any health conditions which might affect the safety of an x-ray for you. Always tell your dentist if you are pregnant.

X-rays are a very useful tool which aid dentists in making a thorough examination of your mouth, and in seeing beyond their visual inspection. With the support of an x-ray, dentists are often able to pre-empt problems you may be experiencing, reducing the pain and extent of treatment you might need at a later stage. Should you have any concerns regarding x-rays, do not hesitate to chat to one of our dental team, who will be more than happy to answer your questions.

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