A Primer on Dental X-Rays

Almost everyone has done it: You enter the dentist’s office for a checkup, and suddenly you’re holding a piece of cardboard in your teeth, and you have a heavy vest on your chest for a dental X-ray.  You may wonder exactly what your dentist is looking for when you get an X-ray and why it’s done. We use dental X-rays to help us find any issues before they become bigger problems. Dental X-rays are very common in the Smokey Point, WA areas and beyond.

What Exactly Are Dental X-Rays, Anyway?

X-rays, or radiographs, are essentially pictures of your teeth (and jaw) taken by a machine with the uses electromagnetic waves to make the bony parts of your body stand out.  Your dentist will usually do an X-ray once per year if your oral health is normal, but X-rays can be done more often if you’re dealing with an ongoing issue. New patients at a practice will almost certainly get an X-ray to check their oral health before starting any other care, and kids might need more frequent checks to monitor growing adult teeth.

The Types of X-Rays

Depending on your issue, you may have one of a few types of images done. This simply means your dentist may take a different angle or shot of your teeth. Most images are taken of your teeth, though an extra orbital x-ray can reveal issues with your jaw.  Many dental x-rays are the bitewing type, where you bite down on the cardboard mentioned earlier. Occlusal x-rays can show how your teeth line up, and panoramic images use a different machine that rotates around your head. This last type is good for checking wisdom teeth and jaw issues.

What Issues Can X-Rays Bring to Light?

X-rays are valuable for allowing your dentist to see what’s going on under your gums, inside your teeth, or closer to your jaw. Some issues aren’t apparent in a visual exam alone.  Impacted teeth are often only found under the gums, and your dentist can see your wisdom teeth before they break the surface, allowing him or her to form a plan before they cause problems. Some insidious tooth decay also happens underneath the gums or around fillings.  Your dentist will also be able to see issues such as bone loss below your gums with a regular X-ray.

Are There Any Risks?

You may have seen the heavy apron that goes over your chest during an X-ray. This apron contains lead, which stops X-rays from penetrating your entire body. Since X-rays are considered radiation, it’s important to take precautions and shield your organs. While having this check done, your dentist or hygienist will step out of the room while taking the images. Sometimes, the thyroid will be shielded from X-rays as well as an extra precaution.  However, high doses are typically needed to cause genetic damage, so the lead apron is a precaution only. Having an X-ray every year is typically safe.  As an extra step in safety, those who are pregnant should avoid having X-rays done.

Questions About Your X-Rays?

Reach out to us today at Seven Lakes Dental if you have questions or concerns about your x-ray images or the procedures that we use to monitor your oral health. We’re here to help and put your concerns at ease.