X-Ray's Are a Vital Diagnostic Tool

August 21, 2012 | Posted in Education

If you have visited us at Rideau Dental Centre regularly, you will have had an x-ray. To some, an x-ray is so routine it is something they do not even think about. Yet the truth is it really is an incredibly valuable technological tool.

X-ray’s operate by sending out waves of energy that can pass through solid objects. The more dense the object, the more the rays are absorbed.

Teeth are quite dense compared to your cheeks and gums. As a result, your teeth absorb more x-ray energy, which is why they show up lighter in colour on the x-ray film. Existing fillings are more dense than teeth and appear lighter on the film.

Cavities, on the other hand, are areas where the tooth has experienced decay. This means the area of the cavity is less dense than the rest of the tooth. As a result, they appear much darker on an x-ray than the rest of the tooth.

This simple contrast in the darkness of the x-ray image enables us to see things that cannot be observed with the naked eye. For instance, we can use x-rays to spot early signs of decay between teeth, under the gum line or beneath an existing filling. An x-ray can also reveal bone loss associated with periodontal disease, locate signs of infection or the fact that a nerve beneath the tooth has died, which can be a precursor to root canal.

X-ray’s help us as dentists to locate these potential problems as early as possible. When found early, treatment may be much easier and less intrusive, and that means less costly.

The question that remains is how often you should have an x-ray. There is no simple answer to this question. We will determine your need for an x-ray based upon your individual oral health. Some people may only require x-rays every year or two. Other patients may need them more frequently, perhaps as often as every six months.

For instance, people with periodontal disease, those with a number of fillings, or who suffer from dry mouth or who smoke may benefit from having x-rays every six months. More frequent x-rays bring into question the health concerns associated with x-ray radiation.

Patients should feel confident that dental x-rays subject you to very small levels of radiation.  In fact, with all of the precautions we take at Rideau Dental Centre, you are likely to be exposed to more radiation through your computer and Smartphone than from a dental x-ray.

If you continue to have any concerns about x-rays, you should speak to us about it. You need to be comfortable with the treatment you receive. This means balancing any concerns about x-ray radiation with the benefits of early detection of dental problems. Finding dental problems early is a healthy habit… and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

Dr. David Lui

Dental Surgeon