Dental X-Rays

xray PAN Taking dental x-rays is a common diagnostic procedure that is considered extremely safe. Digital dental x-rays have very low doses of radiation, producing just a fraction of what you are exposed to in other imaging procedures. If you’re worried about whether you need dental x-rays or wondering if you should forego this procedure due to other medical conditions, it’s helpful to dive a little deeper into what dental x-rays involve, why they’re performed, and how they’re best handled.

Why Dentists Take X-rays

Cavities/Tooth decay – While decay can become apparent on the surface of the tooth, it can be difficult to tell the extent of the damage by examining the surface of the tooth alone. Since decay shows up on an x-ray, they are useful in finding which teeth have cavities, the amount of decay, and how far into the tooth it has gone. X-rays can help our dentists determine whether you simply need a filling or have to have a root canal.

xray abscessAbscess/Infection — Pain to pressure, hot, or cold can be a sign of an abscess or infection in a tooth. A pimple near the root of a tooth or an opening that drains fluid may be additional symptoms of these as well. An x-ray can help diagnose the need for a root canal or a root fracture.

Reveal bone loss – Severe gum disease, or periodontal disease, can cause the bone around your teeth to begin to deteriorate. It is difficult for us to tell the bone is deteriorating, or the amount that already has, without the use of an x-ray. With digital x-rays we will be able to find out where most of the bone loss is happening so we can treat it properly.

Wisdom teeth – Most people have their wisdom teeth removed in their late teens or early twenties before these teeth can cause problems. X-rays will allow us to keep an eye on them as they grow in so we can determine if they are growing in correctly, will have enough room, or are impacted.

Orthodontic treatments – You may be able to see if teeth are crooked simply by looking at them, yet only about a third of your natural tooth is visible. Before you can start orthodontic treatments, x-rays will be needed to evaluate the position of the root and determine which treatments will be most beneficial.

How Safe are Dental X-Rays?

When x-rays are performed properly with adequate safety precautions in place, there’s very little cause for concern. A routine examination with four bitewing x-rays exposes you to roughly the same amount of radiation you will experience during one to two hours on an airplane.

Who Needs Dental X-Rays

Adults receive dental x-rays so we can better identify and treat various issues. Using these x-rays, our team can see:xray man

  • Areas of decay, including those in between teeth or under a filling
  • Bone loss associated with gum disease
  • Abscesses, which are infections at the root of the tooth or between the tooth and gum
  • Tumors
  • Changes in the root canal

Without an x-ray, many of these problems could go undiagnosed. With an x-ray as a reference, we are also better equipped to prepare tooth implants, dentures, braces, and other similar treatments.

Determining Whether X-Rays are Necessary

The best way to minimize radiation exposure from dental x-rays is to make sure these are only done when necessary. There is no set schedule for dental x-rays. Rather, it’s left to our healthcare providers to make an informed decision as to whether you need x-rays with your examination but usually not longer than 18 months. Factors we will consider include:

  • Age
  • Stage of dental development
  • History of oral health
  • Risk factors for various conditions
  • Presenting symptoms

To minimize your need for x-rays, if you have x-rays from a previous dentist, make sure to transfer these to [email protected] to eliminate the need for repeat procedures.

Dental X-Rays During Pregnancy

dental work pregnant Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid dental x-rays. Though the radiation is minimal, it’s best to avoid all exposure when possible for the health of the developing fetus. For this reason, it’s important to tell us if you are or may be pregnant.

There are some instances where pregnant women should still have dental x-rays performed. If you have a dental emergency or are in the middle of a dental treatment plan, you may still need x-rays during your pregnancy. Discuss the issue with Dr. Katie Bell to determine the best way to proceed. It’s crucial that you balance both your dental and prenatal health. Women with periodontal disease are at a higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, so you shouldn’t neglect your teeth during pregnancy.

Your OB/GYN should provide you with a clearance letter and we will take greater precautions, such as using a leaded apron and thyroid collar, for all x-rays taken during your pregnancy if the procedure is deemed necessary. We may also limit your procedures to the second tri-mester only. Keeping us informed is the best way to proceed.

Digital X-rays and Oral Health

The team at Bell Dental, PA takes digital x-rays which use much less radiation and can be saved directly to a computer. They are vital to helping us diagnose and treat most dental concerns, and they allow us to be more efficient.

Dental x-rays are considered extremely safe. However, it’s important to understand the purpose of any procedure that will expose you to radiation. Don’t hesitate to discuss the need for dental x-rays with Dr. Katie Bell and your dental hygienist to better understand how we can help protect and improve your oral health. If you live in the Frederick, Maryland area and would like to know more about x-rays and their purpose, please contact our office.