What is a Dental
The term x-ray is actually
referring to the radiation that is used to make the image on the film. The
radiograph or picture on the film is the resultant picture that we see. A
radiograph is an extremely important diagnostic tool. These pictures show
the dental professional many things that are not visible by just looking in
the mouth. Therefore, radiographs are an essential part of a thorough and
complete examination. In order to do a proper checkup, it is important that
radiographs are used to help with the visual exam. Without the proper use of
both, an inferior examination and inferior treatment will
Why Do I Need Dental
Radiographs show the dental
professional things that are not visible to the naked eye.
There are three type of
radiographs that are routinely taken:
- used to help diagnose
cavities between the teeth, as these areas are not visible when looking
directly in the mouth.
- shows the entire tooth,
including the root and surrounding bone.
- useful in diagnosing an
abscess, impacted tooth or bone loss due to periodontal
- gives a view of the whole
- good screening
- used for the extraction of
- shows any abnormal growths or
cysts in the jaw bone.
It is also important that old
and new radiographs are compared in order to achieve an accurate
Who Needs to Have Dental
Not everyone needs to have
radiographs taken every year. Only your dentist can say how often you need
them. It is recommended that your dentist Prescribe the appropriate type,
number and frequency of x-rays based on your needs. Not everyone needs a
cleaning and check-up every six months; as well, not every patient needs
radiographs every year. However, some patients may need to have radiographs
taken more often. For example, an adult who has had no problems at their
last few dental check-ups, and who maintains good oral hygiene at home, may
not need check-up x-rays every year.
When is it Safe to be Exposed to
The ionizing radiation that you
receive from one dental x-ray is substantially less that the radiation you
receive every day from the sun and stars. Advances in technology have made
dental x-rays safer. Doses of radiation are kept at the lowest practical
value to minimize patient exposure. This is done with the use of a long cone
position-indicating device, appropriate settings on the machine and using
newer, high-speed film. However, it is important to remember that any
unnecessary radiation, even a small amount, can damage body tissues. It must
be decided if the benefit outweighs the potential risk.
Many times a radiograph is
necessary to diagnose certain conditions; and therefore, the benefit
outweighs the risk . It has been proven that x-rays have a minimal risk on a
pregnant woman and her unborn baby. However, radiographs for pregnant women
are only taken in an emergency situation.
Patients always wear a lead
apron and thyroid collar to avoid unnecessary radiation to other parts of
the body. This is also the reason that the radiographer leaves the room when
taking a radiograph. As the radiographer is receiving no benefit from the
exposure, the risk highly outweighs the benefit.
Where Can I Find Out More
Information About Dental X-Rays?
Any questions you may have can be directed to your dental hygienist at
your regular check-up appointment. Your hygienist should be able to help
you understand your particular needs and, in conjunction with the dentist,
can tailor a schedule for dental radiographs to fit your needs.