Dental radiographs, often called x-rays, are a vital part of your dental care. Along with an oral exam, they provide your dentist with a more complete view of what's happening in your mouth.
At Salida Family Dentistry, we strive to use the best possible technology available. On top of using digital sensors with the lowest exposure rate in our operatories, we use a high tech 3D machine for panoramic x-rays. Above all, our 3D machine can be used to digitally plan implants and screen for constructed airways, which helps identify at risk sleep apnea patients. This high quality machine helps your dentist maneuver images to see clearly the structure of your teeth and recommend the best course of treatment.
BENEFITS OF DENTAL RADIOGRAPHS
A dental radiograph gives your dentist a picture of your teeth and bones that surround your teeth and jawbones. For example, dental x-rays may help your dentist see
- caries (tooth decay) that develops between the teeth and/or under existing fillings;
- diseases in the bone;
- periodontal disease;
- infections that develop under your gums (abscess);
- some types of tumors.
Dental radiographs can alert your dentist to changes in your hard and soft tissues. In children, x-rays allow the dentist to see how their teeth and jawbones are developing. Like medical x-rays, dental x-rays allow your dentist to evaluate any injuries to your face and mouth.
Dental x-rays can help your dentist identify diseases and developmental problems before they become serious health issues. Early detection of an infection or injury also can limit or prevent further damage to other areas of the mouth.
SAFETY OF DENTAL RADIOGRAPHS
Some people wonder if dental x-rays are safe because they expose the patient to radiation. Several factors and practices work together to make dental x-rays safe.
The amount of radiation used to obtain dental x-rays is very small. For example, bitewing x-rays —two to four images of the back teeth—expose a patient to about 0.005 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation (a millisievert is a unit of measure).
By comparison, because radiation is part of our environment, people in the United States are exposed, on average, to 3.2 mSv every year from background sources of radiation.
If you are seeing a new dentist, be sure to provide him or her with copies of your existing x-rays to avoid duplicating them. This also will help limit your exposure to radiation.
Your dentist will decide when x-rays are needed on the basis of your oral examination findings, any symptoms you report, a review of your health history, your risk of experiencing oral disease, your age, or any combination of the preceding. In our office, a trained and certified dental assistant will place a leaded apron on your body during the exposure. She may also place a leaded collar around your neck to shield your thyroid gland (located in your neck).The lead in the apron and collar shields your organs from radiation exposure.
Because of the low radiation dose associated with dental x-rays, people who have received radiation treatment for head and neck cancer can undergo dental x-rays safely. In fact, head and neck radiation treatment can increase the risk of developing tooth decay, making the x-rays all the more important.
If you are pregnant, talk to your dentist. During your pregnancy, you may need to have x-rays taken as part of your treatment plan for a dental disease that requires immediate attention. Use of the leaded apron and collar will protect you and your fetus from radiation exposure.