How Do X-Rays Benefit You and Are They Safe? A Dentist Explains

by | Aug 12, 2019 | General Dentistry

Dentist looking at an X-rayIf there’s one aspect of dental care that people have misconceptions about, it’s X-rays. Two of the most common questions dentists hear are, “Why do I need X-rays?” and, “Are they safe?” These questions are perfectly understandable and, in this blog, you’ll get answers! Keep reading to find out why a dentist in West Bloomfield needs X-rays, what they reveal about your oral health, and whether they’re truly safe or not.

Why Does a Dentist Need X-Rays?

The goal of dental care is to maintain your oral health and do as little dental work as possible rather than treating bigger problems after they develop. To accomplish that goal, dentists need diagnostic tools to help them find problems early. When they’re doing an exam, they’re limited to what they can see visually on the outside surface of your teeth, gums, and soft tissues. X-rays show them what’s happening under the surface where many issues show their initial signs.

What Kinds of Problems Do X-Rays Detect?

  • Cavities– When a cavity is small, you usually won’t have pain or other symptoms. It’s only when it becomes larger and gets closer to the nerve that sensitivity develops. X-rays show cavities when they’re very small and can be repaired with simple, inexpensive fillings. If you wait until you feel pain, more extensive dental work is often needed, such as a dental crown or even a root canal.
  • Bone Levels and Gum Health– Your teeth need to be surrounded by strong, healthy jawbone for support and stability, and annual X-rays are the only way to see the bone levels around each tooth. Since gum disease leads to bone loss, these X-rays allow a dentist to spot problems early on and recommend the appropriate gum treatment to preserve your jawbone.
  • Pathology and Disease– About every 3-5 years, a special type of X-ray (called a panoramic) is needed to show everything in your oral cavity, including each tooth, your upper and lower jaws, sinuses, and your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This image allows a dentist to check for bone defects or lesions, infections, cysts, and other types of pathology. Without this periodic X-ray, it’s impossible to see what’s going on in these areas.

Are X-Rays Safe?

Yes! One of the best advances in modern dentistry has been digital X-rays, which use about 90% less radiation than traditional X-rays. Keep in mind that everyone is exposed to a small amount of radiation on a daily basis from sunshine, air, soil, and other sources. In fact, it’s estimated that a set of dental X-rays exposes you to the same amount of radiation as a short, 1-2 hour flight on an airplane. Also, in addition to an extremely low dose of radiation, a protective lead apron is used to reduce your exposure even further.

Ultimately, X-rays are essential for finding oral health problems in their early stages, and the benefits far outweigh the risks. Without them, a family dentist  simply can’t provide the high-quality, comprehensive care you need.

About the Author

Dr. Robert William Wood  is a family dentist in West Bloomfield with 50 years of experience. As part of his commitment to providing outstanding dentistry, he uses diagnostic tools like X-rays to find problems early and help his patients avoid major dental work. If you have any questions about dental X-rays, he can be contacted via his website.