We often get asked about why we take X-rays or encounter people worried due to the radiation risk. Let us reassure you why we take them. X-rays are a necessary part of good patient care. Since we can see only about one-third of the actual tooth, X-rays provide valuable information that we cannot visualize otherwise. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t feel comfortable if your dentist had a blindfold on, now would you? To help put it in perspective as to WHY dental X-rays are so important:
How often do I need X-rays?
The frequency of getting X-rays of your teeth often depends on the person. Your medical and dental history as well as your current health all play factors. Some people may need X-rays as often as every six months; others with no recent dental or gum disease and who visit their dentist regularly may get them only every couple of years. If you are a new patient, we like to take a set of new X-rays as part of the initial exam to establish a baseline record from which to compare changes that may occur over time or if we need to address any concerns that are not visible to the naked eye.
Are X-rays harmful?
There is radiation that is emitted when you get dental X-rays and, rightfully so, is what all the buzz is about. When I go to the dentist, the last thing I’m worried about is radiation — I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I have no cavities and hope they forget to ask me if I floss daily, buuuuuuuuut knowing if X-rays are harmful to you is still important. Radiation causes DNA mutations that destroy the cell’s ability to form new cells. It also destroys the machinery that enables cells to do their job. Thus, radiation poisoning. Now before you go running to Ask Jeeves to learn more about the scares of radiation, we want to put your mind at ease because the amount that is emitted is very minute, we’re talking super small. A dental X-ray only gives off 0.005 mSv (microsieverts), which in easier to understand terms, is comparable to only one day of radiation you encounter in the natural elements day to day. All of us, for all of time, have been exposed to background radiation produced constantly by the natural environment – even such things as climbing a mountain or flying in a plane adds to the amount of radiation you are exposed to, but again, small amounts. To put it to scale, a dental X-ray has only 5% of the radiation emitted than when you get a chest X-ray.
Pregnant and still worried about getting X-rays? Current research has Ok’d the use of X-rays while pregnant, however we definitely only recommend them if you’re having a problem. It’s perfectly fine to go ahead with your routine dental check-ups and cleanings, but try to avoid x-rays unless you are having an issue. It’s best to keep up with visits due to hormonal changes that can wreak havoc with your mouth. See also: Dental Visits and Pregnancy to read more.
Hopefully this has helped put your mind at ease about your dental visit when we ask for X-rays. You can always talk to your doctor or message us with any other questions or concerns!