Dental X-Rays: Purpose, Procedure And Risks

To examine your oral health, the dentist uses dental x-rays also known as radiographs, which are simply images of your teeth.   Low levels of radiation are used in x-rays to capture images of the mouth’s interior especially the teeth and gums. These images allow the dentist to see problems like tooth decay, cavities, and damaged teeth.

Dental x-rays have become commonplace in dental offices across the world.   We’ve consulted The Smilist Dental Manhattan to gain insight into the purpose and uses of dental x-rays and their use today.


Purpose of Dental X-rays?

Dental x-rays are usually done annually so that your dentist can monitor the progress of dental treatments or problems that may occur. To make a decision about whether you need a dental x-ray your dentist usually considers your age, your current oral health, and symptoms you may report to him.

As a new patient, your dentist would need to understand what is happening in your mouth and gain an understanding of the state of your current oral health so a dental x-ray would most likely be required.   However, the dentist may not require an x-ray if you have one from your previous dentist.

When it comes to children who lose and gain teeth within short periods of time, dental x-rays are especially important because the dentist would need to examine the growth of the teeth. Children may also need to have teeth extracted to avoid complications such as having adult and baby teeth in the mouth at the same time.


Procedure for Having Dental X-rays

If you are nervous about having a dental x-ray done you may seek to prepare yourself. But there is no special preparation for having a dental x-ray. The only thing that may be useful, is brushing your teeth properly so that the dentist would have no problem operating inside your mouth. It is common practice to do x-rays before having your teeth cleaned.

When you get to the dentist’s office, you would be required to sit in the dental chair after having a lead vest placed across your chest and lap to protect you from radiation. The dentist or oral health professional will place the machine alongside your head to capture the images inside your mouth. Many dental offices also provide a separate room for x-rays to be performed while conducting other procedures in a different room.


Types of Dental X-rays

The different types of dental X-rays that exist capture different views of the mouth and intraoral x-rays are the most popular, such as:

  • Panoramic– used to plan for implanted dental devices, check your wisdom teeth, or investigate jaw problems. The machine usually rotates around the head.
  • Bitewing – involves biting down on a special piece of paper to examine how well the crowns of your teeth match up. Commonly used to check for cavities between teeth.
  • Occlusal – done when your jaw is closed to check the upper and bottom teeth line up. It can also tell anatomical abnormalities with the floor of the mouth or the palate. It captures all teeth in one shot.


Risks of Dental X-rays

The levels of radiation are very low with the dental x-rays which is why they are deemed safe for adults and children alike. These levels become even lower if your dentist makes use of digital x-rays instead of developing them on film.

To further reduce exposure,   the dentist will have a lead bib placed over the abdomen, chest, and pelvic region so that exposure to radiation would be even lower. It also protects the vital organs in these areas. If a patient has thyroid problems, then a thyroid collar is placed around the neck. Women of childbearing age and children are sometimes made to wear them with the lead bib.


Final Words

The quality and effectiveness of dental x-rays have developed over the years so that dentists can now find small amounts of tooth decay in hard-to-see areas like between teeth or under braces and fillings. If the dentist were to rely solely on his eyesight, he would most likely not be able to identify most of these trouble areas in the mouth until it is too late. With tooth decay, it is always better to identify the problem early so that corrective measures may be taken.

Apart from identifying problems that exist with the teeth, x-rays may also help to pinpoint infections in the jawbones which may cause patients to experience throbbing pain, fatigue, and trouble swallowing. Dental x-rays may be able to show the source of infection in the jaw bone.   When the dentist identifies the problem it’s going to be easy for him to treat with it providing it was caught early.

Periodontal disease can also be detected early with the use of x-rays so patients can avoid suffering from its painful effects.



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Written by HealthStatus Crew
Medical Writer & Editor

HealthStatus teams with authors from organizations to share interesting ideas, products and new health information to our readers.

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