During some trips to the dentist’s office, you will be asked to have dental X-rays taken. X-rays need to be taken periodically, to allow your dentist to monitor any changes in the health of your teeth and gums and detect potential problems. When you see a new dentist, he or she will likely want to take X-rays unless you are able to provide recent images. Other than that, your dentist will decide how frequently you need X-rays by evaluating your age, oral health, and your risk for developing dental problems in the future.
Dental X-Ray Basics
To take dental X-rays, your dentist or hygienist will place thin films wrapped in cardboard into your mouth and ask you to bite down on them. You will be fitted with a lead apron to block the machine’s radiation from your body, and a number of images will be captured at different angles in your mouth. Your dentist will use these images to evaluate your teeth, gums, and jaw bone structure. He or she may also use X-rays to look for:
• Bone infections
• Gum disease symptoms
• Changes to your bones or teeth
• Developmental issues in children
• Locations of non-erupted teeth
Dental X-Ray Risks
With any form of radiation exposure, there is a slight increase in the risk of developing cancer. The younger you are when you begin to get X-rays and the more X-rays you have during your lifetime, the more that risk goes up a small amount. Some studies also show that women are slightly more susceptible to developing X-ray radiation cancer than men are.
While the amount of radiation released during dental X-rays is small, it’s still a good idea to avoid unnecessary X-rays. If you can, bring a copy of previous X-rays with you when you see a new dentist. You may also want to ask about digital, E- or F-speed X-rays, which will help reduce the amount of radiation you receive. If you are pregnant, be sure to let your dentist know, as radiation from X-rays can also be a risk for your unborn child. If you do need to have dental X-rays while pregnant, remember that the amount of radiation to which you will be exposed is small and that your oral health is also important for the health of your baby.
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Keeping Track of X-Rays
Maintaining regular bi-yearly dental appointments if important to your oral and overall health. As your dentist sees your regularly, he or she will be able to properly track your oral health and determine when you need dental x-rays. If you have questions or cannot remember the last time you had dental x-rays, speak to your dentist.