X-rays, why bother?

September 8, 2015

Ever wondered exactly what your dentist was looking for when they’ve taken an x-ray of your teeth? Do your x-rays seem to come around again very quickly? Today’ s article aims to answer some of the most common questions about dental x-rays and give you some insight into the use of the x-ray in supporting dental care.

Why do we need to have x-rays?

X-rays have several purposes. Most importantly, they allow dentists to get a proper look at your teeth beyond what they can see in your mouth during their routine inspection. X-rays allow your dentist to see under your enamel, to see your tooth roots, and to see the bone around your tooth. None of these things can be seen just by looking in your mouth, but importantly these are areas where problems often start. In addition, tooth decay often has no physical/visible signs in your mouth in its early stages, whereas an x-ray can reveal this much earlier on. By finding any problems earlier, treatment is often more straightforward, and generally cheaper. In addition, x-rays of children’s mouths are useful in allowing the dentist to monitor how adult teeth are developing, and when they are likely to come through.

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

This varies according to the individual. Your age, history and condition of your mouth will determine how often your dentist may choose to take an x-ray. Generally speaking it’s normally every 6 to 24 months. However, if you are a new patient at a surgery you can expect x-rays early on as your dentist gets to know your mouth and assess for any potential problems.

Are all x-rays the same?

No, there are different types that are used. A big difference is the amount of your mouth that is x-rayed. This can range from one or two teeth in a small x-ray through to a larger section. A panoramic x-ray can also look at your whole mouth. Modern technology allows for electronic imaging to take place. Instead of x-ray films, electronic probes are used. These send an image directly to a screen whilst the probes are in place. This technology is something that we at Buford Road will be introducing in the coming months.

Is it safe?

Some patients do have concerns about the safety of x-rays and as a rule, the digital imaging method is much safer than than traditional wet film. However, the risk is minimal as exposure to radiation is so small. In fact, the amount of radiation we are exposed to in our normal day to day environment is higher than that which we experience from an x-ray. Needless to say, your dentist will use x-rays sparingly and will take note of any health concerns which may impact the safety (for example, always notify your dentist if you are pregnant).

X-rays are incredibly helpful to dentists in allowing them to see beyond what they find on inspection of your mouth. They enable dentists to get a much more in depth look and to pre-empt problems that may occur further down the line. Your dentist will be happy to discuss any concerns you may have and answer any further questions.

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