A lot of patients are worried that dental x-rays can cause cancer, but if you’re outside for an hour or fly on a plane, you’re exposed to more radiation than you’d get from a full set of dental x-rays. Incidental exposure is further reduced by the use of a lead apron, sometimes with a lead thyroid collar. What I worry about is that if we don’t take an x-ray, we might miss something serious. Dentists use x-rays to find hidden dental structures, malignant or benign masses, bone loss, and/or cavities.
It is the standard of care. It is possible for both tooth decay and periodontal disease to be missed during a visual clinical exam, and an x-ray evaluation of the dental and periodontal tissues is a critical part of your comprehensive oral examination. A competent dentist cannot ethically prescribe treatment without taking an x-ray of your mouth.
Dental X-ray tools and techniques are designed to limit the body’s exposure to radiation and every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is As Low As Reasonable Achievable (the ALARA principle). The newer dental X-ray technique that your dentist already may be using or may soon be using called digital imaging are sent directly to a computer and can be viewed on screen, stored, or printed out. There are several benefits of using this new technology including:
- less radiation than the typical X-ray
- there is no wait time for the X-rays to develop — the images are available on screen a few seconds after being taken.
- the image taken can be enhanced and enlarged many times its actual size on the computer screen, making it easier to show you the problem.
- images can be electronically sent to another dentist or specialist.
- certain software can help dentists digitally compare current images to previous ones. Using this technique, everything that is the same between two images is “subtracted out” from the image leaving a clear image of only the portion that is different. This helps dentists easily see the tiniest changes that may not have been noticed by the naked eye.
According to guidelines written by the ADA and the FDA, your dentist should evaluate each patient individually. Some patients with a lot of problems or who are at high risk for cavities may need frequent X-rays. But for patients who are not having problems, the need is less frequent. The question we apply is what’s necessary? Because an X-ray allows your dentist to look under the hood – and see bones, tissue, and hidden surfaces of your teeth that he or she can’t see with the naked eye.
If we can be of assistance, do not hesitate to contact us for a complimentary consultation.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
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