In most cases, you only get X-rays when something hurts – like when you’ve sprained or broken something. So why does your dentist take X-rays when there’s nothing visibly wrong?
Basically, it’s because there are lots of things that can go wrong in your mouth in spaces your dentist just can’t see. Your dentist uses X-rays to get a detailed picture of the condition of your teeth, jaw, facial bones and the roots of your teeth.
With the help of X-rays, your dentist can often find and treat problems before they become serious, which ultimately saves you time and money. Some of the conditions your dentist can only see with the help of X-rays are:
- small cavities between the teeth;
- periodontal disease;
- impacted teeth;
- infections in the bone;
- developmental abnormalities; and
- certain growths, such as tumours and cysts.
Your dentist will set up a customized X-ray schedule for you using professional guidelines designed to keep your overall health in mind and based on your individual needs. A variety of factors including your age, risk for disease and signs and symptoms will also be taken into account. Children generally need more X-ray exams than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because they’re more likely to fall victim to tooth decay.
As you probably know, dental X-rays involve a very low dose of radiation. This tiny dose of radiation is nothing for you to worry about, but your dentist takes special precautions to eliminate any safety risks. That’s why your dentist covers you with a lead apron. The dentist also uses high-speed film with equipment that restricts the beam to a specific area of the body, and even so, limits exposure.
Wondering why your dentist leaves the room every time an X-ray is taken? Basically it’s because if they didn’t, they’d be exposed to radiation several times every day. Over a long period of time, this would result in an unnecessary dose of radiation of no benefit to your dentist.
If you still have unanswered questions about X-ray exams, be sure to ask your dentist during your next visit. In the meantime, though, rest assured that everything is being done to protect the long-term health and safety of your beautiful smile.