Dentists routinely take x-ray images of teeth and the surrounding tissue and patients often wonder why they are getting x-rays and whether dental x-rays are safe.
A dentist’s role, in part, is to evaluate and explain the oral health of those patients they are treating. We do this by listening to patient concerns, by doing very thorough dental exams, by evaluating conditions in the mouth and by examining dental x-rays. In order to get a complete picture of the patient’s mouth, no one of these steps can be left out.
What Dentists See with X-rays
Dental x-rays complete a picture of the mouth that is not visible during a visual oral exam. These areas include the surfaces between the teeth, the root of the tooth located beneath the gums and bone, the health of the bone surrounding the tooth, the existence of un-errupted teeth and inspection for lesions or infections in the jawbones. Cavities are often found only on x-rays. Significant oral conditions or infections can only be observed through x-ray imaging and remain undetected without them.
What Cannot be Seen in Dental X-rays
There are some bits of information that cannot be detected in x-rays. Many times, vertical tooth fractures are not detectable. Soft tissue lesions, such as swollen glands or non-bony cysts, cannot be seen on x-rays.
How Safe are Dental X-rays
For well over fifty years, dental x-rays have been considered very safe if taken correctly. It was said, with the old conventional x-rays, that a full adult series of x-rays, which is 18 individual films, the total radiation exposure was the same type and amount that one experiences walking outside on a sunny day for ½ an hour. Again, a full set of conventional x-rays is equal in type and intensity to a half an hour in the sun. And a full adult set is taken usually only once every five years. Check up x-rays are usually only 4 films as opposed to the 18 films of a full set.
While conventional x-rays have long been considered safe, Digital X-rays need about 1/5 of the radiation required to make conventional films. Therefore, digital x-rays are considered extremely safe. To date, there are no reported cases of radiation illnesses or disease related to the use of digital x-rays when correct procedures have been followed. Digital x-rays do not require the developing chemicals of conventional radiography, so they do not contribute to global pollution. Another advantage of digital x-rays is that they are stores electronically. This means that they can be emailed to the patient or a specialist and they do not degrade over time.
Because they are so diagnostic and so safe, digital x-rays used judicially and within normal protocols are almost universally accepted as an acceptable method for oral evaluation of disease. Dental x-rays are responsible for the detection and timely treatment of countless dental problems world-wide.
At Turner Dental Care, Dr. Jeff Turner and his staff use Digital Dental X-rays exclusively. Dr. Turner is a family and cosmetic dentist in Aliso Viejo and specializes in Healthy Teeth and Gums for Life. We would love to see you as new patients!