Dental X-rays can seem mysterious and even a little scary. But they an important part of your overall oral health routine. Whether you have a dental X-ray scheduled soon or simply want to know more about the process, here’s an inside look at dental X-rays.
What Do Dental X-Rays Do?
While a visual exam is important, it only tells a partial story of your oral health. In order to complete the picture, X-rays are used to help spot a variety of both existing and potential dental problems.
X-rays help identify cavities, gum disease and infections. Beyond teeth and gums, X-rays also reveal the entire structure of your jaw. Impacted wisdom teeth, bite alignment problems and TMJ can be diagnosed with X-rays. Even more serious problems such as tumors and potential oral cancers can be detected.
When are Dental X-Rays Needed?
Dental X-rays help track changes over time. Tooth, gum and bite problems typically develop slowly over many years. Comparing X-rays allows your dentist to identify changes in your dental health which are invisible to the naked eye.
Your dentist will recommend a dental X-ray schedule based on your needs. If your oral health is generally good, you might only need X-rays once a year. If you’re prone to cavities or other dental issues, more frequent X-rays help you and your dentist stay ahead of any problems.
Children and teens usually need more X-rays than adults. This is because their teeth and jaws are often still developing. You can also expect more X-rays starting around the age of 60. Teeth tend to shift position during the senior years, so your dentist will want to watch out for crowding or alignment issues.
X-rays are also an important component of many common dental procedures such as root canals and tooth extractions. They’ll usually be taken both before and after the procedure.
If you’re meeting with a new dentist, he or she will likely take X-rays of your mouth during one of the first visits. Any earlier dental X-rays from previous dentists should be forwarded to your new dental office. Being able to study your history of dental development can be a vital resource for any dentist.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
Dental X-rays emit radiation, which can be a bit unsettling. But dental X-rays aren’t really anything to worry about. The radiation involved is basically no different than exposure found in an airplane ride or by watching TV. Your dentist will schedule X-rays to minimize exposure but even several dental X-rays a year isn’t usually cause for concern.
Generally, dentists recommend avoiding X-rays if you’re pregnant. Not for any specific danger but just in order to be extra-cautious. But sometimes exceptions are made. Pregnant women have a significant risk of developing gum disease. The effects of untreated gum disease are often far worse than the very minimal risks from an X-ray. If your dentist decides an X-ray will help treat a gum issue, suitable protective lead coverings will be used.
How Expensive Are Dental X-Rays?
Dental X-rays are an important tool for diagnosing and preventing a variety of dental problems. Generally, the earlier you can catch a dental issue, the easier and cheaper solutions will be. So regular dental X-rays can actually save you money by helping to avoid expensive treatments for extensive problems.
Dental insurance can often help cover the costs of a dental check-up. Another effective solution is a dental discount card. This is a membership club which offers savings of 15% to 60% on many different dental procedures often including many which require X-rays. With a dental discount plan, members present their discount card to any of the more than 100,000 participating dental professionals for instant savings at the time of service.
How Important Are Dental X-Rays?
Dental X-rays allow your dentist to gain an in-depth understanding of your oral health. With proper precautions, dental X-rays are harmless and easy. Plus, they save you money over time because they help avoid complicated dental work.
Don’t let your dental health be a mystery. Regular dental X-rays helps you and your dentist develop the complete picture of your oral health.