Taking x-rays always seems to be a topic of hot debate. Dental x-rays are a safe, common diagnostic procedure. X-rays are used to assess and identify potential problems that would otherwise go undetected. Tooth decay is sneaky – it doesn’t normally show physical signs of its presence early on. Without being able to see what’s going on under the tooth surface, it can leave us ‘flying blind’ to know what is happening to a tooth, or the mouth in general.
Four routine x-rays is about 0.0005 mSv, which is less than one day of natural background radiation or about the same radiation you will experience during one to two hours on an aeroplane. We step out of the room because we are taking x-rays all day long and want to limit our ongoing exposure to radiation.
How often we take routine x-rays will depend on the patient – their age and history. Generally for children, the recommended frequency is from every 6 – 24 months. For teenagers and adults, it can vary from every 6 months to up to 3 years.
What can dental x-rays detect?
- Small areas of decay between teeth not visible in the mouth
• Problems with existing fillings, root canals, crowns or bridges
• The presence and severity of gum disease
• Abscesses or other sorts of infections
• Tooth development issues such as malformed teeth, extra or missing teeth etc.
• Cysts and some types of tumours
• Traumatic injuries such as tooth and bone fractures
• Proximity of teeth to nerves and sinuses
• The development of wisdom teeth and if there is a need for them to be removed
• The amount of bone needed for dental implants
Dental X-Rays during Pregnancy
Despite the radiation of a dental x-ray being so minimal, we recommended pregnant women to avoid them where possible. For this reason, it is important for us to know if you are or may be pregnant. In some situations however, x-rays are necessary while pregnant. This may be if emergency treatment is required and in such cases, greater precautions will be taken.