Getting X-rays taken when you visit the dentist is normal. X-rays are black and white “pictures” (called radiographs) that your dentist looks at to check for problems in places that aren’t easily visible. The pictures are taken by sending radiation through the jaw to produce images of the structures inside. Some examples of what X-ray images can show include cavities, wisdom teeth that haven’t come in and bone deterioration below the gum line.
Because exposure to high levels of radiation can cause skin burns, cancer and birth defects, some people are afraid of getting dental X-rays. Today, however, the risk of this happening is relatively low due to improvements in technology and better process regulations. Modern dental X-ray machines narrowly focus radiation beams so that only your teeth are exposed. Images also are created more quickly, reducing your radiation exposure.
Your dentist should still cover your body with a lead apron as a precaution when taking X-rays. Doing so prevents up to approximately 90 percent of the radiation from reaching your chest, abdomen and reproductive organs. You may also wear a lead collar to protect your thyroid gland.
How often you need dental X-rays depends on the state of your dental health. Adults with no oral health problems are advised to have X-rays taken every two to three years. Those who are at high risk for cavities or have a history of advanced gum disease may need X-rays taken more frequently. If you change dentists or see a specialist, ask your current dentist to give you your X-rays so you can bring them with – this will eliminate the need to have them taken again.
If you have any questions or concerns about dental X-rays, be sure to share them with your dentist at the start of your visit so she/he can make you as comfortable as possible.
Republished from Delta Dental
Additional source: Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums. Copyright by Harvard University. All rights reserved.