What most people call X-rays are actually X-ray photographs
(also known as radiographs). An image is made using
X-rays, which are similar to sunlight, but of a shorter
wavelength, and able to show us what's below the surface
of a tooth. Even though we call them X-rays, we are
actually referring to the image created by X-rays.
Why are Dental X-rays Necessary?
X-rays are the only way to identify problems that aren't
externally visible. X-rays are very essential in doing a complete
and thorough dental examination. They are especially important
in diagnosing serious conditions early to allow for effective
treatment before you experience discomfort. X-rays
show bone anatomy and density, decay
between the teeth or how extensive the decay is, whether an
abscess is present, impacted
teeth, or if children have permanent teeth.
No cavity on first X-ray.
Months later, cavities that start
between the teeth can't be seen by visual examination,
but they can be detected on an X-ray.
This cavity was detected and filled before the patient felt
any discomfort, and before the nerve became infected or the
tooth became abscessed.
There is another cavity shown in the X-ray on the right.
Can you find it? It's difficult for the untrained eye
to spot. Click here to see where it is. (Hint: It's not the
left edge of the top left tooth. That's just the edge of the
frame around the X-ray).
How Often Do I Need Dental X-rays?
The number and type of X-rays you will need depends on several
factors such as age, current dental health, and external signs
that may trigger a cause for concern. We are sensitive, however,
to your concerns about exposure to radiation, and we only
perform those X-ray procedures that are necessary for your
continued dental health.
Are Dental X-rays Safe?
Dental X-rays are very safe. They are taken at fast speeds
with low radiation. A special lead apron is used to further
reduce exposure. Everyone is exposed to a certain level of
"background" radiation every day. Background radiation
comes from many sources, including the sun. The amount of
radiation from dental X-ray photographs (two views) is approximately
equivalent to only two days of exposure to background radiation.
In other words, you receive as much radiation in two days
of normal activity as you do from two bite-wing X-ray photographs.
If you are curious about panoramic X-ray photographs, they
are equivalent to only about eight days of background radiation.*
*Source: British Journal of Radiology, 56,