As a child, did you ever wonder what it would be like to have X-ray vision? It may put your mind at ease to reflect upon this memory as we take a deeper dive into dental X-rays. We’re not suggesting that the word “X-ray” should make you nervous or anxious, we’re just acknowledging that we tend to identify with a concept a bit more comfortably when we can relate to it. In this post, we’ll explore what dental X-rays are, why we need them, and what you need to know.
What is a Dental X-ray?
Let’s start with the basics: the term X-ray is short for X-radiation. X-rays may also be referred to as radiographs. A dental X-ray is essentially a form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation that passes through soft tissue and is absorbed by dense tissue. This means that the energy can more easily pass through the gums and cheeks than through teeth and bone.
Initially, dental X-rays were primarily used as a diagnostic tool, but over time, they’ve also become synonymous with preventive dentistry. In short, they’re an essential part of any dental care treatment plan. Why? Because X-rays help dentists to diagnose potential oral health issues before they become major problems. This includes cavities, gum disease and some types of infections.
Why are Dental X-rays Performed?
In the world of dentistry, an intraoral X-ray is the more common of the two types; the other type being extraoral. Because of the level of detail that they provide on the tooth, bone and supporting tissues of the mouth, intraoral X-rays allow dentists to:
- Identify / locate cavities
- Take a closer look at tooth roots
- Investigate the status of any developing teeth
- Assess the health of the bony area surrounding the tooth / teeth
- Determine if periodontal disease is present
There may be other reasons why your dentist or dental specialist orders an X-ray, but these are the main purposes.
What You Need to Know
We understand that X-rays can cause some anxiety and concern, but the process is generally pain-free. Here we’ll outline what you can expect before, during and after your X-ray.
- First, a dental professional will place a heavy lead apron over your body to protect you from the radiation.
- The next step is for the dental professional to insert a small apparatus made of plastic into your mouth and ask you to bite down on it. This is what holds the X-ray film in place.
- Once this is secured, the dental professional will then take an X-ray image of the area in question, and repeat this process until images of the entire mouth have been captured.
Not only do digital X-rays save time and offer convenience, but they also expose you to a very minimal amount of radiation. X-ray equipment today eliminates unnecessary radiation and its high-speed film enables dental professionals to reduce the amount of radiation a patient receives. Further, there are a lot of myths about radiation and pregnancy, but both the ADA & the ACOG have determined that the level of radiation in dental X-rays is very minimal and, therefore, safe with appropriate shielding.
Have dental X-ray questions we didn’t cover in this post? You know where to find us! We’re here to ensure you’re fully armed with the knowledge and peace of mind that you deserve during your dental visit!