Why Are Dental X-Rays Important?

October 6, 2022

Dental Radiographs, better known as X-rays, enable the dentist to see everything they cannot see “clinically,” or in other words, just by looking in your mouth. A dental radiograph allows the dentist to see the inner layers of your teeth, like the dentin ( the layer underneath the tooth’s enamel ) and the pulp (found at the center of the tooth, a soft tissue that consists of nerve tissue and blood vessels). They also allow the dentist to see things like cavities between the teeth, bone level, abscesses/infections, and so many other dental issues that could be hiding beneath the surface. X-rays, in a nutshell, help dental professionals see the whole picture!

What Do Dental X-Rays show?

Dental X-rays can show:

● Areas of decay between teeth
● Decay beneath fillings
● Cysts and other types of tumors
● Bone loss in the jaw due to periodontal disease
● The position of teeth to determine what kind of tooth implant, braces, or dentures are required
● Abscesses/infection

But nothing is bothering me, do I still need routine X-rays ?

It’s common and understandable for a patient to think, “nothing is bothering me, so I don’t need X-rays,” but dental X-rays can help your dentist find and treat dental problems before they become too serious or too advanced. For example, they could detect a small cavity that can be fixed with a simple filling before it’s deep enough that it would require a root canal or an extraction. Oftentimes, dental problems can be detected on a routine dental radiograph before it ever causes a patient any discomfort at all.

A dental X-ray could feel like an additional cost or one more thing to prolong an appointment when you’re already in a hurry, however, X-Rays are an important tool to detect dental problems as early as possible! The idea behind that is to ultimately save you both money and time in the long run. Keeping the smile on your face healthy and pain-free!

Why would my child need dental X-rays? Especially when they’re going to lose this first set of teeth?

Just as they do for adults, dentists use dental radiographs to gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on inside your child’s mouth. Seeing the “whole picture” as we touched on before, helps the dentist evaluate how a child’s current dental situation could affect the development of their smile over time. X-rays are used in pediatric patients just as they are in adults to help diagnose issues such as cavities, decay, and breakage. Some of your child’s primary teeth (also known as baby teeth) will likely stick around into their early teens! This is why things like decay, infection and the loss of baby teeth early due to such issues are a big deal. You may not realize it, but baby teeth serve as a space maintainer until your adult teeth are ready to erupt ( or come in). Losing a baby tooth before it’s time can cause serious issues with eruption sequence and space concerns down the road. Caring for baby teeth is just as important as caring for adult teeth for all the reasons listed above, but also for your child’s overall health.

How often do I need dental radiographs?

The answer to this question varies! Every patient is different, every patient’s dental situation is unique, and every dental radiograph serves its own purpose! Your necessity for dental radiographs will not be the same as the next patient’s! Your dental plan should be personalized to you and your needs.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

According to Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association, dental X-rays are perfectly safe. Advances in x-ray equipment, and digital film technology, for example, allow your dentist to get a good x-ray image using much less radiation than they used to! To put it into perspective, a set of four “bitewing” X-rays (the images that are usually taken about once a year to check for new cavities), the total amount of radiation is only about 0.005 mSv (millisieverts), is less than an average daily dose of radiation in everyday life. Not to mention, the added protection of a leaded apron to cover your abdomen or a leaded collar to protect your thyroid.

Prevention is always better than the cure. Brushing twice a day, flossing regularly, using a Waterpik daily, and staying current on your dental cleanings, exams, and routine dental radiographs can help you stay ahead in the game! We can’t wait to see you at your next visit!

Colgate.The Importance of Dental X-Rays, September 15, 2022
American Dental Association. X-Rays, December 22, 2021.
American Dental Association. Mouth Healthy. X-Rays, 2022
American Dental Association. Dental Radiographs Benefits and Safety, September 11, 2011.