The Ever Important Dental X-Ray

November 17, 2011 | Posted in Education

If you have visited your dentist regularly, you will have had an x-ray. It has been an essential element to complete dental treatment for years.

The x-ray has been around so long, we might take its technology for granted. Yet it continues to be an amazingly useful diagnostic tool for dentists. It operates 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 will absorb more x-ray energy, which is why they show up lighter in colour on the x-ray film. Existing fillings are denser than teeth and appear lighter on the film. However, since cavities are areas of the teeth which have decayed, they appear much darker than the rest of the tooth.

This simple contrast in the darkness of the x-ray image enables your dentist to see things that cannot be observed with the naked eye. For instance, your dentist 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.

The value of the x-ray is its ability to help your dentist find these potential problems as early as possible. When found early, treatment may be much easier and less intrusive.

The question that remains is how often you should have an x-ray. Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer to this question. Your dentist will want you to have x-rays as often as your dental health requires. 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. Furthermore, your dentist will take all of the necessary precautions to ensure your exposure is kept to a minimum.

If you continue to have any concerns about x-rays, you should speak to your dentist 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. Because finding dental problems early is a healthy habit… and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

Dr. Wayne Perron

Dental Surgeon