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How safe and necessary are dental X-rays?

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dental X-rays

If you visit your dentist regularly, you will likely get a dental X-ray. These X-rays are extremely useful for dentists to diagnose and detect what is going on beneath the surface of your gums. You may have asked yourself how useful and safe these X-rays are.

What are dental x-rays?

Dental X-rays are two-dimensional images of the hard tissues of the mouth, namely the teeth and jawbones. There are two types of dental X-rays: film and digital. Digital is replacing film, as it emits about 80% less radiation than film X-rays, is a faster process and is easy to archive. Because of these important advantages digital X-rays are considered better.

Why dentists need X-rays?

Dental X-rays can help your dentist detect oral health issues, like cavities and gum disease, before they worsen. This information is useful for the correct diagnosis, help dentists decide for the most effective treatments, and monitor the progress.  X-rays help dentists find and treat dental problems early on, which can help save you money, unnecessary discomfort, and maybe other health complications.

What Do Dental X-rays Show?

  • Decay not visible to the naked eye, which usually develops between teeth or underneath a filling, or cracks and damage in a filling
  • Bone loss from periodontal disease
  • Root infection or nerve damage within the tooth root
  • Dentists can prepare for any dental procedure, tooth extraction, dentures, braces, tooth implants and treat only the diseased area accordingly
  • Even oral cancer can be detected, cysts or changes caused by various diseases of the body
  • Dental X-rays can check tooth and oral development of younger patients and help permanent teeth growth

Types of Dental X-rays

Dentists use specific types of X-rays for information about specific areas of the teeth and gums. Dental X-rays can be either Intra-oral X-rays which involve taking the X-ray from inside the mouth, or extra-oral X-rays taken outside the mouth, generally around the jaw area.

Intraoral X-rays are the most common type of dental X-rays.  These X-rays provide a lot of detail and allow your dentist to find cavities, check the health of the tooth root and bone surrounding the tooth, check the status of developing teeth, and monitor the general health of your teeth and jawbone.

Bite-wing X-rays show details of the upper and lower teeth in one area of the mouth. Each bite-wing shows a tooth from its crown to the supporting bone. Bite-wing X-rays are used to detect cavities between teeth, changes in bone density, and diagnose gum disease. They are also useful in determining the proper fit of a crown and fillings.

Periapical X-rays show the whole tooth — from the crown to beyond the end of the root to where the tooth is anchored in the jaw. Each periapical X-ray shows this full tooth dimension and includes all the teeth of either the upper or lower jaw. Periapical X-rays are used to detect any abnormalities of the root structure and surrounding bone structure, follow-up a dental procedure

Occlusal X-rays are used less frequently, to check the oral cavity for impacted teeth, extra teeth, abnormalities, cysts, tumors and jaw problems.

Types of extra-oral X-rays

Panoramic X-rays are usually taken every three to five years and show the entire mouth area -all the teeth in the upper and lower jaws – on a single X-ray. This type of X-ray is useful for detecting the position of fully emerged as well as emerging teeth, can identify impacted teeth, and aid in the diagnosis of tumors. They are often used by orthodontists and surgeons in preparation for various dental procedures like teeth extraction, implants and braces.

Cephalometric projections show the entire side of the head. This type of X-ray is useful for examining the teeth in relation to the jaw and profile of the individual. Orthodontists use this type of X-ray to develop their treatment.

Computed tomography, (CT scanning), is used to identify problems in the facial bones, such as tumors or fractures, and evaluate bone for the placement of dental implants and difficult extractions, to avoid possible complications.

Current Technology

A current dental X-ray technique is digital imaging. The X-rays are sent directly to a computer and can be viewed on screen, stored, or printed out. There are several benefits of using this new technology:

  • The technique uses less radiation than the typical X-ray
  • The images are available on screen a few seconds after being taken.
  • The image can be enhanced and enlarged on the screen, making it easier for the dentist to identify the problem is.
  • Images can be electronically sent to another dentist or specialist, for a second opinion, determine if a specialist is needed, or to a new dentist (if you move).
  • Dentists can digitally compare current images to previous ones.

Every patient wants to know if dental X-rays are safe

While some people need X-rays taken more frequently, current guidelines require that X-rays be given only when needed for clinical diagnosis.

Digital X-rays emit an extremely low amount of radiation. The technical measurement of a full series of digital X-rays is about 0.005 mSv or Millis evert, which is less radiation than our daily natural exposure, from the sun, and the various everyday technologies.

All dental offices diligently record patient X-rays and estimated cumulative radiation doses to ensure that patients are never exposed to unnecessary amounts of radiation.

How often should teeth be X-rayed?

The frequency of dental X-rays depends on the patient’s age, medical, dental history and current condition. For most adults, dental X-rays are recommended once every 24 to 36 months for routine check-ups. However, people in the high risk category may need X-rays more frequently.

  • Children, because their teeth and jaws are still developing and their teeth being smaller decay can spread faster in the inner part of their teeth.
  • Adults with extensive restorative work.
  • People, who drink a lot of sugary beverages.
  • People with periodontal disease.
  • People who have dry mouth (xerostomia),due to medications or Sjögren’s syndrome.
  • Smokers who are at increased risk of periodontal disease

How much do dental x-rays cost?

Dental X-rays can cost from $30 to $200 depending on the kind and number you need. The insurance usually pays for all or part of the costs. You can ask your dentist about available payment options.

Rufe Snow Dental takes into consideration X-ray frequency, family dental history, and other factors to ensure each patient feels safe and comfortable with their treatment. If you need more information about dental X-rays, don’t hesitate to contact Rufe Snow Dental Group

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Monday 8:30 AM to 2:00 PM
Tuesday 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Wednesday 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Thursday 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Friday 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Saturday 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

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