Not all dental problems are visible. Decay in between teeth, impacted third molars, and other similar oral health problems can’t really be seen with the naked eye alone. When your dentist needs a better idea of how your teeth and gums are really doing, he or she will perform a dental X-ray.
Dental X-rays are special images used to diagnose oral health problems that can’t be seen during a normal check-up. They use very low levels of radiation to show normally covered areas of your teeth on film, such as the roots and bone. Though getting X-rays isn’t always that fun, it’s still a necessary step towards taking care of dental problems early and avoiding difficult oral health complications in the future.
Many people are often reluctant to get dental X-rays due to radiation scares and other spooky myths. However, getting one isn’t as unhealthy or scary as you might think. Here are some common myths about dental X-rays that you should know.
When Do I Get A Dental X-Ray?
Dental X-rays are usually done on a case to case basis. In other words, most dentists won’t perform one unless absolutely necessary. Some dentists might perform X-rays to better know the state of a new patient’s oral health, while other dentists might need to use them during procedures like root canals and wisdom tooth removal.
How often you need to get X-rays really depends on the state of your oral health and dental history. People who maintain good oral hygiene and regular check-ups usually only need an X-ray every few years. Other people who have suffered recurring dental health problems might need to get an X-ray every 6 months. People who are currently undergoing surgical procedures might also need to get an X-ray as often as the dentist prescribes.
If you are at risk of the following oral health problems there’s a good chance that your dentist will need to perform an X-ray soon.
- Tooth Decay: Most dentists will need to perform X-rays while repairing decayed teeth. This is to better check whether or not a patient’s tooth is fully intact and if there is any new decay in between teeth. People who don’t brush properly and eat too many sugary snacks might also need an X-ray.
- Periodontal Disease: When the gum tissues are inflamed they weaken and eventually lose the ability to support teeth. Your dentist will need to perform dental X-rays to check whether any of your teeth are at risk of falling out.
- Tooth Trauma: Even people with good oral hygiene can risk losing their teeth if they encounter accidents. You might need a dental X-ray if the connective tissues in your teeth have grown weaker from suffering serious injury.
- Tooth Abscess: Untreated cavities and injury can cause pus to form along the roots of your teeth. You’ll need to get a dental X-ray if you think you’re suffering from dental abscess as it usually occurs beneath the surface of the gums.
Myths About Dental X-Rays
Myth #1: They Cause Cancer
The National Cancer Institute itself states that while X-rays can emit radiation that damages cells, you aren’t very likely to get cancer from them. In fact, the benefits of an X-ray (such as early detection of health problems) greatly outweigh any risks.
The radiation levels used during dental radiology procedures aren’t actually that dangerous. They measure the same as radiation from a microwave, TV, or airplane. In fact, your dentist will take the necessary steps to ensure that you’re only exposed to low doses of radiation while they take your X-ray. So unless you’re getting X-rays every hour of the day, you won’t be at risk of any serious illnesses while getting a dental X-ray.
But wait! If dental X-rays aren’t that dangerous, why do medical staff need to leave the room while you’re getting one? The truth is that since you’re only getting an X-ray once a day, you aren’t at risk of suffering excessive radiation exposure. On the other hand, dentists and other medical professionals need to perform several X-rays a day. Leaving the room for a bit helps them avoid built up radiation exposure and its resulting side effects.
Myth #2: They Damage the Brain
Dental X-rays are actually the safest out of all medical radiological procedures. This is because unlike other X-rays, which usually cover a large portion of the body, this kind of X-ray uses an extremely small dose of radiation to focus exclusively on your teeth. What little radiation you’ll be exposed to won’t reach your brain at all.
Another tidbit to remember is that any risks from radiation will only happen if you suffer from extreme exposure every day. Unless you work at a power plant or use Uranium daily, you won’t suffer any illnesses just by getting an X-ray every few months.
Myth #3: Kids Shouldn’t Get Them
Many dentists, including the American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, recommend that kids get X-rays every 6 to 12 months. This is to ensure that they don’t suffer from painful tooth decay, severe cavities, or other unseen oral health problems. Even if a child’s teeth may look fine on the surface, germs and plaque can cause problems in hidden areas of the teeth and gums.
The idea of dental X-rays may be concerning to parents of young kids. However, most dental X-rays are only done on children when absolutely necessary. Dentists are also specially trained to practice safe procedures when performing dental X-rays on children, such as using very low radiation doses and letting their patients wear protective gear.
Myth #4: They’re Bad for Pregnant Women
The risks of radiation from a dental X-ray are low for everyone, pregnant women included. Since dental X-ray procedures don’t produce harmful levels of radiation at all they won’t affect breast milk, the fetus, or other parts of the body. In fact, most health professionals believe that the risks of letting unseen health problems linger is actually higher than getting an X-ray.
Some people believe that women who have had X-rays can pass on radiation to their children through breast milk. This isn’t true at all. The small dose of radiation you get from a dental X-ray will go away some time after the procedure. It won’t stay in your body or cause harm to your baby.
Dental X-rays aren’t done routinely. If you don’t suffer from any serious oral health problems, you can ask your dentist to postpone the procedure until after you’ve given birth. If a dental X-ray is absolutely necessary, your dentist will protect sensitive areas of your body with protective gear.
Myth #5: They’re Just a Money Making Scheme
Dental X-rays are vital for treating oral health problems before they become worse. They’re meant to help dentists detect tooth decay and early onset gum disease, as well as check whether teeth are misaligned. Furthermore, these X-rays are also necessary for inspecting the jaw and checking whether or not you’re at risk of any bone diseases.
Another important fact to remember is that gum tissues are invisible to the naked eye. Your dentist will need to use X-rays to ensure that your teeth don’t fall out due to swollen gums or plaque buildup. It won’t be possible for your dentist to make a proper treatment plan for you unless he knows how your teeth and gums are doing beneath the surface.