Dental X-Rays

Why do dentists and other dental professionals need dental x-rays?

Though uncomfortable to have done, dental x-rays provide a wealth of information to dental professionals. They indicate where tooth decay and cavities are present, they warn oral surgeons to the presence of nerves or misshapen teeth and roots, they reveal the location of wisdom teeth, show any bone loss from infection, and indicate the presence of cysts, tumors and impacted teeth. They are also used to identify any fractures or breaks and can even be used to identify a person at a later point in time. Obviously they are put to use on a daily basis in most dental practices, and x-ray equipment is found in almost every office. The procedure for making an x-ray will usually involve the placement of a lead vest over the patient, the technician or dentist will then insert a small cardboard or plastic film container into the patient’s mouth, position it correctly, and then ask them to hold it in place by biting down upon it. This is frequently a very uncomfortable moment, but lasts for only a few seconds. The film plates will be developed and mounted for the doctor’s review.

Why does the patient need a lead vest?

Because x-rays involve radiation, experts believe it is best to cover the patient with a protective barrier. Modern vests in dental practices will come equipped with a thyroid collar which covers the throat and protects the thyroid glands from any exposure. Realistically, the amount of radiation from a dental x-ray is inconsiderable and nothing to be concerned about. Additionally, many states have strict guidelines about dental x-ray equipment and practices, which require professionals to use the smallest levels possible in order to obtain high-quality images. Is there a suggested schedule for people to have dental x-rays taken? Actually, there are federal recommendations for people with both low and high risks of dental decay to have x-rays taken. For those at little risk for decay the Federal Drug Administration suggests x-rays every two to three years (for adults), and for those at risk they suggest every year or every eighteen months. Most dentists will take x-rays of their patients as part of a cleaning visit, but not every time they perform the procedure. Modern developments in dental x-rays include the use of digital radiography, which entirely eliminates the need for cardboard or plastic film plates. The equipment records electronic images of the patient using significantly lower amounts of radiation, which can then be stored on a computer hard drive rather than a cumbersome file folder.

Interestingly, the developing trends in body piercing, including those of the lip, tongue, cheek and nose may interfere with the results of an x-ray. Additionally people with braces or retainers, dentures and bridges may also not be able to have certain x-rays taken. There are several types of dental x-rays, and each is used for specific diagnostic purposes. They each address a separate area of the mouth, including areas of the palette, jaws, sinuses and nasal passages. They do this in order to review all of the facial areas affected by dental and oral health.