Dental x-rays are one of the most important tools available in monitoring the status of your oral health. You’re probably aware of the dentist “poking” around your teeth every 6 months after your cleaning. Dr. Nagao checks each tooth for any signs of wear, stickiness, or discoloration that could indicate a cavity is starting. However, a lot of cavities can’t be seen with the naked eye. This is where x-rays are important!

X-rays give your dentist the ability to see between and around the teeth. Not only is he checking for cavities starting to form between the teeth (called flossing cavities), but he’s also looking at the end of the root and at the sinuses and bone for cysts, abscesses, or other abnormal masses that would otherwise be nearly undetectable without x-rays.

Often times, patients want to decline x-rays out of concern for the exposure to radiation. Ideally, patients have bitewing x-rays (four x-rays) done every year, and a full series of x-rays (eighteen x-rays) done every five years. Patients often think, “Oh what’s another six months? I’ll get them done next time.” However, next time can easily turn into two, three, or four years without these vital checkup x-rays. What started as a small cavity that would only need a filling could turn into a large cavity, requiring a root canal and crown, which are considerably more costly than a filling. Unfortunately, there’s no magic timeline for how quickly a cavity can progress – every patient is different. Therefore, it is very important to stay on top of the scheduled dental x-rays. The benefits of having these x-rays done routinely far outweigh the exposure to radiation risks!

Digital x-rays have become quite popular, despite being significantly more expensive than traditional film x-rays. They are fast (no developing in chemicals), convenient (easy storage), and actually much lower in radiation than their film counterparts! Often times they are up to 80 percent lower in radiation!

People often ask, “Well if x-ray radiation is so minimal, why do I have to wear a heavy lead blanket? And why does everyone leave the room during my x-rays?”

The heavy lead blanket is there to protect your neck and upper torso. Despite the radiation being minimal and very concentrated, there is no need to expose these areas to radiation if it isn’t necessary. Same goes for the assistant or hygienist taking the x-rays: they do this all day long. They make take 10 series of x-rays that day, which is 10 times the exposure the patient gets. Minimizing any exposure to x-rays is ideal. 

Going off of the above chart, you can see the radiation we get from dental x-rays is very minor. You’ll be exposed to more radiation on a daily basis just from being in the Arizona sun for a few minutes! At Designer Dental, we are always willing to respect our patient’s wishes when it comes to the frequency of dental x-rays. However, we hope that this article has cleared up any concerns about dental radiation and put your mind at ease when it comes time for your next visit!