Dental X-rays are an important tool that we use in our Langley office to help find and diagnose dental issues like fracture’s, cavities and wisdom teeth removals. We use cost-effective X-rays to find underlying issues in the jaw, teeth and soft tissues of the mouth, but we can also use them to review your oral health development.
In many ways, X-rays can be just as important as teeth cleanings. It gives a closer, inside look at what’s going on in your mouth. Many of our patients at Blue Water Dental have questions about dentalX-rays. It’s important to understand what they are, why they are performed and how to prepare for them.
What are Digital Dental X-Rays?
Dental X-rays, sometimes called dental radiographs, take images of your teeth using an advanced digital sensor and ultra-low level of radiation. We use these images to assess your dental oral health and identify issues such as tooth decay, cavities or even impacted teeth.
Taking X-rays is a simple procedure. First, we place a lead vest across your lap and chest to protect you from unnecessary radiation exposure. Next, the X-ray machine is placed alongside your head and will take images of your mouth.
Our dental team will explain each step of the process so you know exactly what to expect. It’s important to remain still while the images are being processed and recorded. Spacers may be used during the procedure, and they may be moved or adjusted to ensure that the images are accurate and proper.
Why Do You Need Oral X-rays?
Dental X-rays may be needed for a variety of reasons:
If you are a new dental patient, we may take X-rays to better assess your oral health. X-rays are especially important if you don’t have any on file from your previous dentist.
Generally, X-rays are performed once a year just to keep track of your oral health.
X-rays may be needed more than once per year if we are tracking a dental issue or treatment.
There are a few factors that will determine how often you need X-rays, including:
Your oral health
Whether you have a history of tooth decay or gum disease
If you have an active oral disease
We may recommend that children get X-rays more often so that we can monitor the growth of their adult teeth. These images can help us determine whether some baby teeth need to be pulled, and it also allows us to identify potential complications early on.
Many patients wonder whether they need X-rays at every dental visit, and the answer really depends on the state of their oral health. If you haven’t had cavities or other dental issues in a few years, X-rays may not be necessary at every appointment. But if you have a history of cavities and other dental issues that need monitoring, X-rays may be needed more often.
Types of Dental Crowns from our Langley Dentist Office
Occlusal: Provides a clear picture of how your upper and bottom teeth are aligned. This type of X-ray is performed when your mouth is closed, and it captures all of your teeth in one image. We can use an occlusal X-ray to identify abnormalities in the palate
Bitewing: This type of X-ray is commonly used to look for cavities in between the teeth. To perform a bitewing X-ray, patients bite down on a piece of paper, which allows us to see how the crowns of your teeth are aligned.
Panoramic: As the name suggests, a panoramic X-ray will take an image of all of your teeth, your jaw and all of the surrounding structures. These X-rays help us see your nerves, sinuses and other areas that can help us identify potential issues. They provide a clear overall look at your oral health and are especially useful for wisdom teeth extractions.
Periapical: This type of X-ray will take images of your complete teeth from the root to the crown.
In some cases, we may need to take extraoral X-rays. These images will allow us to look at areas outside of your teeth and gums.
What are the Benefits of Radiograph Imaging?
X-rays are a common tool that we use to identify oral health issues early on. Many gum and tooth issues, including some types of decay, tumors and infections, are undetectable with the naked eye. X-ray images allow us to find these issues early on and treat them promptly.
We can also use X-rays to:
Detect wisdom teeth and determine the best time for extraction
Being able to identify problems early on allows us to prescribe treatment quickly and– hopefully – prevent complications utilizing our wide range of services. All dental X-rays are performed by staff who have received formal radiograph training. This ensures optimum safety when taking images.
What are the Risks of Digital Radiographs?
Many patients are naturally concerned about having to get X-rays. Exposure to radiation is a valid concern. However, dental X-rays produce very low levels of radiation. The levels are so low that they're considered safe for both adults and children. Medical procedures account for 96% of exposure to manmade radiation, but dental scans deliver some of the lowest doses of radiation.
A full-body CT scan, for example, gives a dose of 1,000 millirem (1 rem), whereas a dental scan gives a dose of 1.5 millirems. A chest X-ray gives a dose of 10 millirems.
Manmade radiation only accounts for half the radiation that humans are exposed to. The other half is natural background radiation. A routine exam that includes 4 bitewing X-rays will give you about the same radiation exposure as a 1- to 2-hour airplane flight.
To put things into perspective:
A chest X-ray exposes you to 2.4 days' worth of natural background radiation.
A skull X-ray exposes you to 12 days' worth of natural background radiation.
A lumbar spine X-ray exposes you to 182 days' worth of natural background radiation.
An IV urogram exposes you to 1 years' worth of natural background radiation.
An upper gastrointestinal exam exposes you to 2 years’ worth of natural background radiation.
A barium enema exposes you to 2.7 years’ worth of natural background radiation.
A CT abdomen scan exposes you to 2.7 years’ worth of natural background radiation.
As an extra precautionary measure, we also place a protective bib over your pelvis, chest and abdomen to prevent unnecessary exposure to your vital organs. If you have a thyroid condition, a special thyroid collar can be used to protect this area. The benefits of X-rays generally outweigh the risks. They play an important role in the diagnostic process, but they also help us understand the state of your oral health.
Can Too Many X-Rays Cause Brain Tumors?
A 2012 study from epidemiologists at Yale University concluded that dental X-rays increased the risk of a benign brain tumor, called meningioma. Researchers argued that dental X-rays were the primary manmade source of ionizing radiation exposure. This type of radiation has been linked to a higher risk of brain tumors.
The reality is that only 3%-5% of manmade radiation is associated with digital dental X-rays. The remainder comes from radiological examinations.
The Order of Quebec Dentists has recently refuted the claims in Yale’s study. They found no causal relationship between the ionizing radiation from dental X-rays and the development of benign brain tumors.
Should Pregnant Women and Children Avoid X-Rays?
Pregnant women can get dental X-rays. There is currently no medical indication against the procedure dental radiography produces very low radiation doses, but pregnant women should generally avoid the procedure unless it’s necessary.
If you must have a dental X-ray during your pregnancy, we will provide a lead apron for you to wear as well as a lead collar to protect your thyroid.
How to Prepare for Dental X-Rays
Many patients wonder whether they need to do anything special to prepare for an X-ray. The only thing we ask is that you brush your teeth prior to your appointment. We typically perform X-rays before cleanings. A clean mouth allows for a more hygienic environment when we are working inside of your mouth.
How to Prepare for Dental X-Rays
Digital x-rays offer a better option of takingx-rays when compared to normal radiography. A few of the many reasons ourpatient prefer digital x-rays include:
Less Expensive. In terms of costs, digital x-rays are less expensive because there’s no extensive developing that takes place.
Faster Results. Speed is important when you’re in the dental chair. We strive to offer our patients the fastest, most accurate x-rays possible. Digital x-rays eliminate the wait times so that we can see the results directly on the computer screen. We'll be able to assess the health of your teeth and what work needs to be done on each tooth faster thanks to digital x-rays.
Better Imaging. The images produced through digital x-rays is much clearer and detailed. We rely on different shades of grey to better understand the oral structure of your teeth. Digital imaging provides us with 256 shades of grey compared to just 25. The digital image is clearer and easier to enhance making them the preferred option for accurate dentistry.
Safer. On top of being faster, better and less expensive, the digital x-rays reduce exposure to radiation by up to 80%. You don’t need to worry about your dental x-rays causing you to be exposed to high levels of radiation like in the past.
The Outlook for Digital X-Rays
There is nothing more important than the health and well-being of our Langley dental patients. We at our office understand that you have concerns about radiation exposure from dental X-rays. For this reason, we use the latest in X-ray technologies and take maximum safety precautions to help combat the risk of exposure.
X-rays are performed only as needed by dentists and we personally take every possible precaution to protect our patients. Before taking images, we consider your dental history, how often you have had X-rays in the past and several other factors. We want to ensure that you feel comfortable taking X-rays, and will review the pros and cons before taking the next steps.