A visit to the dentist for a regular cleaning and check-up will likely include one or more dental X-rays. This may lead patients to become concerned about radiation exposure, as well as any additional costs. Your dentist is also concerned about exposure to radiation and takes steps to minimize this exposure.
Dental X-rays are an essential part of a complete dental examination. They may be needed during that important first visit to the dentist, at a routine checkup, or after a specific dental problem has occurred. Dental X-rays are a vital diagnostic tool that the dentist uses to ensure a complete and accurate diagnosis, and if needed, to create an appropriate treatment plan.
This examination allows the dentist to see what is otherwise hidden during a clinical examination. More importantly, a dentist can diagnose potential oral health issues before they become a major problem. When used appropriately, dental X-rays help dentists to design a preventive protocol that helps patients avoid major and costly dental problems. When dental X-rays are ordered properly and also interpreted well, they can help your dentist to prevent dental problems before they become large—which means you can preserve your teeth, and keep dental costs low.
Radiation exposure from a dental X-ray is a valid concern. Today, many offices use digital X-rays. They allow radiation exposure to be as little as 10 percent of what patients would be exposed to with traditional film-based dental X-rays.
Despite the reduced radiation exposure allowed by digital X-rays, dental professionals still take protective steps by placing a protective apron over the patient. The protective apron reflects X-rays away from the body since they cannot pass through lead. With this heavy lead apron, the body and the neck are protected from radiation that is scattered after exposure to the mouth and teeth.
After placing the protective lead apron on the patient, the dental assistant will insert a small device into your mouth that holds the X-ray sensor in place and ask you to bite down on it in order to hold it in place. The X-ray sensor is then exposed (to produce a digital image on the computer screen) when a dental assistant presses a button on the wall outside of the treatment room.
The painless dental X-ray procedure is necessary in order for the dentist to detect and diagnose dental caries (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease) or other tooth infections. Dentists can also evaluate the status of the patient’s existing tooth restorations (fillings, crowns, bridges). The digital dental X-ray allows the dentist to see the teeth and jawbone structures in ways not otherwise possible. Digital dental X-rays therefore, extend the dentist’s ability to examine the patient’s oral health and tooth status beyond the visual and tactile examination.