Though we call them x-rays, the proper term is dental radiographs. X-rays are the energy the machine puts out to create the image (dental radiograph). For the purposes of this article though, we’ll use the commonly used term x-rays.
The main reason we take x-rays is to help diagnose problems that can’t be seen by the naked eye (or even the magnified eye). They allow us to see areas in between your teeth that we can’t otherwise see. This lets us find dental cavities at an earlier stage so that you can get a filling (rather than having to wait until they become so large that they cause pain and need a root canal or removal). They also allow us to see your jawbone, from which we can see bone levels around your teeth (to screen for periodontal disease) and pathology in the bone or around teeth. We can also see teeth that haven’t erupted yet such as wisdom teeth.
How often routine dental x-rays are taken should be based on your oral health, condition, age, risk for disease, signs and symptoms.
X-rays from decades ago relied more on heavy concentrations of radiation. Today’s x-rays use faster speed films (less radiation) or are digital (even less radiation). So today’s x-rays are very safe. In fact, you probably get more radiation by being outside on a sunny day or sitting in front of your television than you will from your dental x-rays!
Some sources say you have the right to refuse dental x-rays at your visit. The flip side to this is that dentists can’t knowingly be negligent in their treatment of a patient. What this means is that your dentist may refuse to treat you if you refuse to have dental x-rays that your dentist feels are necessary for his/her diagnosis or treatment of your problem.
Note: The information in this article is not intended to replace the clinical judgement of your health care provider.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who sees adults and children at her dental office located at:
1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd.
Lorain, OH 44053