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Dental X-Rays: How They Can Benefit Your Oral Health

Dentist showing dental x-ray to patient

Having an X-ray performed at the dentist can sound like a scary experience that is indicative of something being wrong with your mouth. In reality, dental X-rays are a regular part of basic dental maintenance that can help your general dentist identify and treat minor oral health concerns before they progress into more serious ones. Dental X-rays are quick, painless, and, most importantly, safe for most people, including children. Here's what you should know about how dental X-rays could benefit your long-term oral health before scheduling your next routine dental exam with the trusted team at Carraway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry.

What Do Dental X-Rays Show?

Having a dental X-ray performed during your bi-annual check-up may seem a bit unnecessary, but the truth is dental X-rays are a common procedure that is essential to preventing and treating both minor and extensive oral health concerns. Dental X-rays, also known as radiographs, are images captured with low levels of radiation to show the dentist what is happening beneath the surface of your teeth and gums. They are a critical step in properly diagnosing many dental diseases, including tooth decay, periodontal disease, and impacted teeth.

For children, dental X-rays help the dentist have a clear look at:

  • The development of cavities

  • Impacted teeth

  • If wisdom teeth are present and/or moving

  • If there is ample space available for permanent teeth to properly emerge

For adults, dental X-rays can show the dentist:

  • The development and location of tooth decay

  • Decay beneath dental work, such as fillings

  • The progression of bone loss

  • Abscesses and cysts

  • Some oral cancers

  • Changes in the root canal

What Are the Different Types of Dental X-Rays?

Two primary types of dental X-rays allow the dentist to see the inside of your teeth, gums, and oral cavity, as well as the bones of your jaw and skull. They include:

  • Intraoral X-rays focus on the inside of the mouth. These include:

  • Bitewing X-rays

  • Periapical X-rays

  • Occlusal X-rays

  • Extraoral X-rays are used to identify problems in a person's jaw and skull. These include:

  • Panoramic X-rays

  • Tomograms

  • Cephalometric projections

  • Sialogram

  • Digital imaging

  • Cone-beam CT

  • MRI imaging

Who Needs Dental X-Rays & Are They Required?

While oral exams are an effective way to identify signs of many common dental problems, including cavities and gum disease, they are sometimes inadequate at allowing the dentist to see how exactly how extensive the concern is. This is where dental X-rays come in handy. By giving the general dentist a closer view of what is happening inside of your teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues, the dentist can find and treat oral health concerns in their earliest stages. Because of this, dental X-rays are critical to avoiding more complicated problems later on that can cause you more pain, be more expensive to resolve, and may impact your overall dental health.

As with any oral health procedure, you are not required to have a dental X-ray performed during your dental exam. However, dental X-rays are a tool that can greatly improve and protect the health and wellbeing of your smile. By choosing to skip dental X-rays, you could be more likely to experience a dental problem that could have been diagnosed and treated quickly and easily.

Dentist explaining dental x-ray to patient

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Dental X-rays are a regular part of diagnostic dental care considered extremely safe for people of all ages. Dental X-rays do involve radiation, but only a very low dose, using only a fraction of what you may experience in other medical imaging procedures. To ensure that your dental X-ray procedure is as safe as possible, our experienced team takes as few dental X-rays as necessary. Additionally, we provide leaded coverings to protect areas of your upper body from radiation exposure.

I'm Pregnant. Can I Still Get Dental X-Rays?

Your oral health is important during every phase of life, but especially during pregnancy. While this is true, dental X-rays should be avoided during pregnancy when possible to protect your unborn baby from unnecessary radiation exposure. In some circumstances, a dental X-ray may be more beneficial than risky for a pregnant woman, including during a dental emergency or if urgent dental treatment is needed. Poor oral health, such as gum disease, can negatively impact your prenatal health and the wellbeing of your baby.

For these reasons, you must make good oral hygiene habits a priority during your entire pregnancy and let your family dentist know if you are expecting a baby. If the dentist does recommend that you have an X-ray done during your pregnancy, extra precautions can be taken, such as wearing a leaded apron and thyroid collar.

How Often Do I Need to Get Dental X-Rays?

There is no set schedule for how often a person should have a dental X-ray performed. Generally speaking, it's good to have a dental X-ray administered once a year to monitor the condition of your teeth and gums, especially if you have a complicated dental history or are at risk of developing oral health problems, such as tooth decay or periodontal disease.

Depending on the health and condition of your mouth, X-rays could be performed as frequently as every six months or as infrequently as every 2-3 years. Some factors that could lead to your family dentist encouraging you to have a dental X-ray include:

  • Oral health history

  • Signs of dental disease

  • Age

  • Current oral health diagnosis

Protect Your Smile at Carraway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry

Dental X-rays play a vital role in keeping your oral health as healthy and strong as possible. If you're concerned about having a dental X-ray performed at your next appointment, the compassionate team at Carraway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry is here to put your mind at ease. We are proud to use the latest in progressive dental technology to ensure that you will always be comfortable and safe when undergoing any dental procedure.

Contact us today to learn more about how dental X-rays could benefit you and to schedule your next bi-annual exam and cleaning with Dr. Carraway. We look forward to helping you maintain a beautiful, healthy smile for a lifetime!