Dental X-Rays

Patients don’t really need all those x-rays. That’s just how the dentist pads the bill. Right? Wrong!

There are several reasons we take many x-rays. Simply put, we can’t see with the naked eye what an x-ray can reveal. They give us a baseline for any future developments. Through the years I had many examples of cavities misdiagnosed because patient refused to have x-rays taken but the one I remember the most was a young man in his 30s that came to us as a new patient. He had small x-rays taken in the past but had never had a “panoramic x-ray” taken to see for any pathologies in his jaws. The panoramic x-ray we took showed us a large mass in the corner of his lower jaw that never gave patient any symptoms. We send him to an oral surgeon, who told him the cyst was so large he could have broken his jaw just by chewing gum. That’s why we take x-rays!

We also take x-rays to check for cavities between the teeth or under existing fillings, for cysts and tumors, bone loss from periodontal disease, abscesses, the position of adult teeth before eruption, to treatment plan for braces, and to see missing teeth, possibly for dentures or implants.

In children with primary dentition, it’s important to look for decay between the teeth. The enamel of primary teeth is so small that the decay can progress into the dentin very quickly and damage a tooth beyond repair in a matter of weeks. Finding and treating decay in primary teeth needs to move swiftly to catch it while it’s small.

Factors that play into the number of x-rays someone needs include their current oral health, symptoms of oral disease such as gum disease, history of having cavities, age (checking for bone loss as someone ages), and to use for a baseline in new patients.

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The importance of x-rays

It’s not only important to take several x-rays per visit, it’s just as important to take x-rays that are of good diagnostic quality. Therefore sometimes we need to repeat an exposure to get this perfect image.

Did you know an insurance company can deny a procedure if you do not submit good diagnostic x-rays? If the images aren’t diagnostic quality, insurance can deny payment.

Is it safe to take all these x-rays? Yes! The radiation that patients are exposed to through today’s x-rays is very low, so you are perfectly safe. Radiation is cumulative, which means that our bodies gather it and never release it. However, many things we do every day cause us to be exposed to radiation, like rays from the sun, buildings, and soil.

How often you have x-rays taken is dependant on your oral health. As a new patient at our clinic you will have full mouth x-rays taken, unless we can obtain good quality, recent images from your previous dental provider. After that initial exam, we most likely will be taking diagnostic x-rays every 24 months if you are healthy and not prone to cavities, or every 12 months if you have history of multiple cavities, dry mouth or any systematic diseases that can make you more vulnerable to decay. The bigger, panoramic x-ray is usually taken every 3-5 years and is very helpful to check the roots of all your teeth at the same time, check for any pathologies in your bones, some changes in your jaw joints or even sinuses.

So next time if you have any questions regarding the x-rays we are taking, please let us know so we can explain and discuss this, but don’t forget – it is one of the necessary tools we have to make the right diagnoses and prepare the right treatment for you!

Wishing you the best of health!