Woman with healthy teeth holding dental x-ray

When you visit the dentist with tooth pain or another issue, your dentist is likely to suggest x-rays. But he or she may also recommend x-rays at your first appointment with a new dentist or with your ordinary twice-per-year visits.

Many patients have questions about whether x-rays are safe and necessary, especially if they aren’t experiencing any dental problems. Read on to find out more about the importance of dental x-rays.

Dental X-Rays Show More than Just Your Teeth

Dentists can tell a lot from the oral exam you get at your visit, but x-rays go much deeper and can detect issues that your dentist cannot see at the surface. While x-rays show your teeth, they also give your dentist a glimpse of your jaw and soft tissue.

  • Cavities- Not all cavities are visible at the surface. Catching them with x-rays means earlier treatment, less pain, and the potential to save more tooth structure.
  • Impacted Teeth- When wisdom teeth come in, they often do not have enough room and become trapped under the gums.
  • Abscesses- Abscesses can mean an extremely dangerous infection. They can appear below the gums and not be visible without the help of an x-ray.
  • Oral Cancer- Dental x-rays have the potential to detect oral cancers early on, drastically increasing the chances of a better outcome.
  • Bone Loss- Loss of jaw structure can happen for several reasons but cannot be seen by the naked eye early on. Dental x-rays can detect this issue and lead to earlier and more effective treatment.

X-Rays Save Time and Money

Dental x-rays are a powerful tool in diagnosing dental problems, but they can also save you money in the long run. X-rays discover these oral health problems sooner when treatment is often easier and more effective.

One simple example is detecting a cavity sooner. Some cavities may be visible from an oral exam, but some are not because the dentist is not able to see teeth from every angle and cannot always see between teeth.

When a cavity is detected at the beginning stages of tooth decay, a simple filling can treat it. However, if the cavity remains and decay persists over time, a great deal more damage can occur to the tooth. After a while, you may require a root canal and crown, which is far more extensive than a simple filling would have been

Dental X-Rays Are Incredibly Safe

Many patients worry that dental x-rays aren’t safe. However, modern x-ray dental technology isn’t harmful. To put it into perspective, a dental x-ray exposes you to about the same amount of radiation you experience in one day just living on Earth. The American Dental Association concludes that the small amount of radiation from an x-ray is outweighed by the benefits associated with x-rays.

Of course, if you are pregnant or have any other medical issue that may impact your decision to get an x-ray, let your provider know. Your provider can help you determine whether an x-ray is optimal and can take precautions like a protective cover to minimize exposure.

How Often Need Dental X-Rays Varies

The answer to this question will vary depending on your age and dental health. For healthy patients with no dental issues, the ADA recommends x-rays every 2 to 3 years. However, if you have had any cavities, fillings, crowns, or other dental work, you may need x-rays every 12 to 18 months or more often. For very young children with a low risk of cavities and who still have their baby teeth, x-rays may be unnecessary. However, older children may need x-rays more often as their secondary teeth develop.

Of course, if you are experiencing symptoms or other indications of a dental problem, for example, someone whose wisdom teeth are coming in, or if it is your first visit with a new provider, your dentist will likely recommend x-rays to evaluate your concerns.

X-rays help you get the best dental care. Whether you have a symptomatic dental issue or it’s time for your regular twice-a-year exam, call us to schedule your appointment.