Dental radiographs, or X-rays, are an important part of a thorough dental examination. A full set of X-rays (18) is usually required for patients who are new to a dental practice, or who need extensive treatment. Two to four follow-up or check-up X-rays called “bite-wings” are necessary every 6-18 months. Dental X-rays are important for many reasons. They can expose hidden tooth decay; reveal a tooth abscess, cyst or tumor; show impacted or extra teeth; and also help determine the condition of dental fillings, tooth crowns, dental bridges and root canals. Dental X-rays can also reveal bone loss from periodontal gum disease, locate tarter buildup, find foreign bodies within the gum or bone, and see if there is enough bone for the placement of dental implants. These are just some of the many reasons why dentists rely on dental X-rays.
Some people that have visited my office expressing concerns about the levels of radiation they may be exposed to when receiving a dental x-ray. Their fears are usually founded in an article they read on the internet, a TV talk show they had watched or an experience by a friend of a friend of someone they knew. I stress to those people that we use ELDDR (Extremely Low Dose Digital Radiography) which uses one tenth of the dosage of a traditional x-ray film. Please refer to the chart below for some relative comparisons.
As you can see the amount of radiation exposure one receives from dental x-rays is less than the exposure one receives from daily exposure from nature (sunlight). Also the radiation exposure is concentrated to a small area by the lead collimator on the x-ray unit.
Dental X-rays are an important tool in the diagnosis and treatment of dental problems. They do not, however, replace the need for a visual examination of the head, neck, TMJ and oral cavity. It is only with a combination of both the X-ray and the visual examination that the dentist can best treat his or her patients.