Why Do I Need X-Rays at the Dentist?

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Many people are concerned about radiation when they are due for X-rays at the dentist. They may ask if they can wait until the “next time” because they recently had an X-ray taken on another part of the body elsewhere. Here are the facts about X-rays and why delaying them is not a good thing.

X-rays help us properly diagnose a person when they come see us for their routine check-up, during certain procedures or for an emergency visit. It lets us see what we can’t see by just looking in the mouth. Teeth have many layers to them, and when we look into the mouth, we can only see one of those layers. X-rays allow us to see all of those layers and whether or not they are healthy. Dr. Rudi As-Sanie explains the different types of x-rays that may be taken during your dental visit.

X-rays that may be taken at your dental visit

Bitewing X-rays 

These types of X-rays help us see between the teeth, right where they touch together. We look for dark areas that show up, which indicate decay or a cavity. If the dark area has extended into the second layer of the tooth on the x-ray, a filling is then needed to prevent the cavity from reaching the nerve of the tooth which would be very painful and require a root canal. Smaller fillings last longer, so the sooner we catch a cavity, the better. This leads to a shorter visit for the patient and a less chance for sensitivity. Bitewings should be taken once a year unless otherwise indicated by the dentist depending on a person’s decay rate.

Panoramic X-ray 

This type of X-ray shows us all of the teeth including the roots. We can also see the TMJ, sinus cavities, nasal area and the entire mandible (lower jaw). This type of X-ray shows problems such as impacted teeth, bone abnormalities, cysts, solid growths (tumors), infections, and fractures. A panoramic X-ray is taken about once every 3-5 years. It is also necessary to make an accurate diagnosis for the entire oral cavity.

Periapical X-ray (PA) 

This type of X-ray is usually only taken for a problem-focused area or a specific procedure. If you have had a root canal on a tooth, a PA is necessary to check the health of the root canal and make sure it is still functioning properly. Same goes for an implant. A PA is also needed when permanently seating a crown to be sure the margins are sealed, and it is in its proper place.

Dental X-rays have come a long way now that they are digital and have very minimal radiation to the patient. Taking 4 Bitewing X-rays is equivalent radiation exposure to spending 15 minutes out in the sun. It is even significantly less than flying in an airplane. It is ¼ the amount of radiation as the previous film X-rays that were used in dentistry. We want to educate people that dentistry is all about preventive care and the goal is to catch something very early on (with above X-rays and regular checkups) to prevent the need for further invasive care. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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