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Ask a Family Dentist: Why Do I Need X-Rays?
Many people worry about radiation when their family dentist recommends an x-ray scan. Sometimes, they may want to delay the procedure because they recently had an x-ray taken. Dental x-rays reveal much information that would normally be invisible to naked eyes. This article covers important facts about x-rays and why you need them.
A family dentist explains the importance of x-rays
Family dentists recommend x-rays to make an accurate diagnosis when patients visit the office for a routine checkup, for a dental emergency or when performing specific treatments. The x-ray allows them to see what cannot be seen by simply checking the mouth. The oral cavity contains different layers and a check with the naked eye can only show one. X-rays allow dentists to see all the other layers and their state. The following are various types of x-rays that may be taken during a dental appointment.
This type of x-ray shows what is between the teeth, at the joining points. The dentist will look out for dark areas, which signal decay or a cavity. If an x-ray image shows that the dark area has spread to the second dental layer, a dental filling is required to stop the cavity from spreading to the tooth core containing the nerves, which could be painful and necessitate a root canal.
Smaller fillings last longer, meaning early detection and treatment is better. This also means the patient will spend less time in the office and have a lower risk of sensitivity. Bitewing scans should be taken once annually unless the dentist suggests otherwise, based on the patient’s individual risk of tooth decay.
This x-ray reveals the entire tooth, including its roots. The dentist can also see the TMJ, nasal area, sinus cavity and the lower jaw. This type of scan reveals issues such as impacted teeth, cysts, bone disorders, solid growths (tumors), fractures and infections. A dentist may request a panoramic x-ray only once every three to five years and it is important in order to make a precise diagnosis for the entire oral cavity.
This type of x-ray is often only taken for a procedure or for a problem-prone area. If the patient has undergone root canal treatment for a tooth, the x-ray is required to ascertain the health of the root canal and ensure proper function. This applies to a dental implant, as well. The dentist may also request the x-ray when placing a crown permanently to ensure it is positioned correctly and that the margins are sealed completely.
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Dental x-rays have improved over the years. Now they use advanced technology to ensure very minimal radiation. You will get the same radiation from undergoing four series of x-ray scans and spending 15 minutes under the sun. X-rays today produce only a quarter of radiation compared to the film x-rays which were previously common in dentistry.
If your family dentist has recommended a dental x-ray, it is for preventive care and the objective is to detect a condition promptly in order to prevent it from worsening into bigger problems.
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