Dental X-rays (radiographs) are an imaging technique your dentist uses to assess your oral health. Even during a routine cleaning, your dentist may suggest taking dental X-rays if a problem is suspected. This is quite common as it allows them to identify or monitor any oral health issues. But some patients are apprehensive about taking X-rays as they fear the exposure to radiation is unsafe. Here, we shed light on some of these concerns and explain why dental X-rays are as important as regular check-ups.
Why are dental X-rays performed?
First, let’s look at why it’s important for dentists to take X-rays. Dental X-rays are typically used to get a clearer picture of your oral health. In fact, X-rays are a normal part of your dental check-up. They can help identify problems such as cavities, impacted teeth, infections, decay, bone loss, and tumours or growths. Additionally, your dentist can also use X-rays to track or monitor dental issues and provide proper treatment. Without dental X-rays, it would be much harder or impossible to diagnose these types of oral health problems. And, if left untreated, these problems may worsen considerably down the line.
How often you get radiographs will depend on various factors. These include age, the current state of your oral health, any symptoms of oral disease, and a history of gum disease or decay. Furthermore, children may need to get X-rays more frequently than adult patients to monitor the growth of adult teeth.
Are dental X-rays safe?
Dental X-rays do use radiation to generate images of your teeth and bones. But to put things into perspective, people are exposed to radiation from natural and man-made sources every day. For example, the soil emits about 35 mrem (millirem) of natural radiation per year depending on location. Smoking cigarettes exposes you to 1,300 mrem per year. Drinking water to 5 mrem per year. Eating a banana to 0.01 mrem. A transcontinental flight such as Montréal-Paris to 2 to 4 mrem. In comparison, a single dental X-ray has 0.1 mrem of radiation. Whereas a set of 4 bitewings X-rays has 0.4 mrem. So, while dental X-rays do expose patients to radiation, the exposed levels are very low. As such, dental X-rays are safe for both adults and children.
Furthermore, radiographs technology has evolved considerably over the years as have safety guidelines and practices. Nowadays, many dental offices use digital X-rays instead of film, further reducing the exposed radiation levels. Using a lead bib and a thyroid collar also helps to protect your vital organs from radiation.
Who should refrain from getting radiographs?
While dental X-rays are safe for adults and children, pregnant women should avoid them. In fact, women who are pregnant or think they may be should stay clear from all types of medical X-rays. This is to protect the fetus, as radiation is deemed unsafe to its development. Make sure to let your dentist or dental hygienist know if you are pregnant or believe you may be. This will ensure they take all the necessary precautions to ensure your safety and that of your baby. And remember, it is important to have regular dental check-ups during pregnancy.
Radiographs will help your dentist identify and treat various oral health problems. These include infections, disease, cavities, bone loss, malposition of teeth including wisdom teeth, tumours or growths and more. While dental X-rays do expose patients to very low doses of radiation, they are an essential tool to diagnosing dental problems. And, these problems, if left untreated, can have far worse effects on your overall health down the road. If you have questions about dental X-rays or would like to book your next appointment, please contact us.