Radiographs, or “x-rays”, are a tool used to detect disease or abnormalities in the body, including the teeth. Simply put, x-rays are images created on film when energy passes through the tooth and is absorbed into the film. This is very similar to the way visible light is used to create photographs. X-rays are valuable in that they allow your dentist to be able to see inside the tooth and detect problems far sooner than would be possible without the x-ray.
It is common for patients to be concerned about the amount of radiation exposure that they are receiving when dental x-rays are taken. This concern usually stems from a misunderstanding of how much radiation is safe. Did you know that you are exposed to more radiation each day during every day activities than you are during one set of dental x-rays? Radiation is all around us. It comes from the sun, space, materials in the earth, and even from foods that we eat. The amount of radiation that a patient receives during one set of dental x-rays is approximately 2-3 millirems. To put this amount in perspective, the same amount is received during just one short flight on a commercial airliner. Radiation exposure from dental x-rays is very low, and is even lower now with the widespread use of modern digital x-rays.
Oftentimes, a patient will question whether or not they need x-rays because none of their teeth hurt. Unfortunately, dental decay and periodontal disease (gum disease) can become severe before any pain is felt by the patient. Taking x-rays on a regular basis allows the dentist to catch these diseases before they become advanced. In the long run this minimizes treatment needed, preserves healthy teeth and saves the patient money.
Here at Creekside, we update x-rays once per year on adults and once every six months on children. The hard enamel layer in children’s teeth is thinner and problems can become serious more quickly. If a patient is in pain we may take x-rays in between these regular intervals in order to diagnose the source of the pain.
We welcome any questions you may have about dental x-rays or any other issue! Discussion with you is an excellent opportunity for us to discern your particular needs and develop a plan for your optimal dental treatment.
Deborah Hawkins, RDA