Why dental x-rays are important, and the benefits of going digital.
With the advent of x-ray scanning at airports, many of my patients are questioning the need for x-rays at their dental checkups, so I’ve decided to make this the subject of this month’s blog post.
Why do we take x-rays? Because they’re the best ways to see and diagnose abnormalities in the teeth and jaws, and their benefits generally far outweigh the very slight radiation exposure. This is especially true with modern digital technology.
Today’s digital x-rays, the type we offer in our practice, use 80 to 90 percent less radiation than traditional x-rays, making them a great and relatively risk-free diagnostic tool. Radiation is a natural part of our atmosphere, and we are all exposed to a tiny amount every day. Eating 10 bananas subjects you to more radiation than an annual set of digital dental x-rays, as does a typical afternoon spent outdoors, even in the dead of Seattle winter.
On a positive note, a set of digital dental x-rays can expose serious risks to your health, including:
- Tiny areas of decay invisible to the naked eye, such as those between teeth or below the gum line
- Cracks or damage in an existing filling
- Bone loss due to gum disease or other conditions
- Certain changes associated with cancer and other diseases
We also use digital x-rays to monitor new tooth development in children, to prevent things like impacted teeth (new teeth that are unable to erupt normally) and to make accommodations for other things kids commonly experience as their permanent teeth emerge.
Adult patients with healthy mouths and good oral care habits usually only need x-rays once every few years. But children and people with extensive disease, restoration work, poor hygiene or other conditions that may result in decay may need to be x-rayed every six months to one year.
Radiation Dose Chart – Randall Munroe – Reed Research Reactor
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