X-rays are a powerful diagnostic tool. However, due to potential radiation exposure, having x-rays taken is a subject many patients find concerning.
The amount of radiation received from an x ray with modern dental equipment is negligible. Radiation is measured in units called “Sieverts.” We are all exposed to radiation just living on Earth. In the course of a year every person on the plant will absorb roughly .001 Sieverts. The modern x-ray used in a dental office exposes patients to half that amount.
Purpose of X-Rays
While x-rays can reveal cavities between the teeth, there are many other things x-rays can reveal. These include positioning of teeth that are still below the gum line, identify growths in and around the jaw and can save lives by finding cancers that physical exams might not catch.
Two-Dimensional vs. Three-Dimensional X-Rays
Many dental practices still rely on two-dimensional radiographic x-rays, just like the ones hospitals use. However, two-dimensional x-rays have some drawbacks in dental work. Because the image is often fuzzy, it typically doesn’t show the needed detail to spot small problems areas, such as cavities of potential abscesses. Three-Dimensional x-rays use a cone beam CT scan to creates a three dimensional image of the teeth and the surrounding bone structure. This produces an incredible detailed image that can catch even the smallest problem, before it can become a big one.
Frequency of X-Rays
Some patients may benefit from a new set of x-rays every year, whereas others will only require x-rays as needed. Generally, there is no right answer as to how often x-rays should be taken, as there are typically many factors to consider. These factors can include:
• If the patient has a history of severe tooth decay
• If the patient has a history periodontal disease
• Whether or not the patient has received all of their adult teeth
• If the patient’s teeth haven’t yet moved into their permanent locations
• Whether or not there is enough room in the patient’s mouth for their wisdom teeth
• If the patient needs some type restorative solutions