Dental X-rays, also known as dental radiographs, are images of your teeth that allow your dentist to evaluate your oral health. Dentists take X-rays to help diagnose any dental problems that may not be visible to the naked eye.
How Do Dental X-Rays Work?
A dental X-ray works by emitting low levels of electromagnetic radiation through the mouth to create an X-ray image, known as a radiograph. On this X-ray image, the teeth and bones absorb more of the ray than the gums and soft tissues, so the teeth appear lighter, while areas of tooth decay and infection look darker since they do not absorb as much of the radiation.
Digital radiographs are a new form of X-ray imaging that uses digital X-ray sensors to replace traditional X-ray film. Using state-of-the-art technology, digital radiographs produce enhanced computer images to display teeth, gums, and other oral structures and conditions. There are three kinds of digital radiography: the direct method, the indirect method, and semi-indirect method.
- Direct Method: Uses an electronic sensor placed in the mouth to record images
- Indirect Method: Uses an X-ray film scanner to view traditional dental X-rays as digital images
- Semi-Indirect Method: Combines a sensor and scanner to convert dental X-rays into digital film
What are Dental X-Rays used for?
X-rays allow your dentist to identify problems such as:
- Tooth decay
- Orthodontic misalignment
- Bone injuries
- Early-stage bone diseases
- Abscesses or cysts
- Bone loss
- Poor tooth and root positions
- Developmental abnormalities
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors
Most of these issues are almost impossible to diagnose during a typical clinical examination. To be proactive about your oral health, most dentists perform dental X-rays once a year. They may happen more often if you exhibit any symptoms of oral disease or have a history of gingivitis or tooth decay. You may also get a dental X-ray if you have had trauma to your teeth to assess if there is any damage to the roots or nerves. Children and teenagers may need dental X-rays more often than adults since their teeth and jaw are still developing.
Benefits of Dental X-Rays
Dental X-rays enable us to detect a myriad of dental problems early on, such as cavities, bone loss, tooth decay and more. As many of these problems are undetectable to the human eye, X-rays allow us to catch these issues early before they progress any further, potentially damaging your oral and overall health. X-rays are also utilized to monitor your healing progress after a dental procedure to ensure that no complications have arisen.
Not only are dental complications detected through X-rays, but wisdom teeth development is also recorded by these radiographs. Tracking wisdom teeth growth is essential to determine the best method and timing for extraction.
Risks of Dental X-Rays
Though dental X-rays involve radiation, the exposure levels are so minimal that the American Dental Association (ADA), in collaboration with the FDA, has determined that the exposure is safe for both children and adults. X-ray radiation is also regulated by state laws to ensure that the proper amounts are being administered.
To further ensure your safety, lead aprons are placed over your chest, abdomen, and pelvic region to prevent any unnecessary radiation exposure to your vital organs.
Now, there are also digital radiography options that are more efficient, cost-effective and safer than traditional X-rays. With digital X-rays, you are exposed to 80% less radiation than the traditional kind, significantly lowering the risks of X-rays even more.
Dental X-rays are only considered unsafe for women who are pregnant or believe they may be pregnant, as exposure to any kind of radiation after conception could result in miscarriage or birth defects.