Digital Radiography: Why X-Rays? Why digital? X-Rays show us problems while they are still minor problems. The technology has jumped to the level of having a digital sensor that replaces the old X-Ray film. It gives us almost instantly an image on the computer, using digital X-Ray is the state-of-the-art equipment for practicing responsible preventive dentistry.
Dental x-rays may reveal:
Abscesses or cysts.
Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
Decay between the teeth.
Poor tooth and root positions.
Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Dental X-Rays: Is there a safety issue?
Absolutely, it is an "approach-avoidance" issue. Either extreme is not good: too few X-Rays means risking undiscovered pathologies; too many X-Rays could damage tissues. It then becomes a matter of assessing the "benefit to risk" ratio. When the benefits of having the information far outweigh the risks of getting the information, then that would be viewed as good preventive dentistry.
One way to evaluate the relative "risk" is to compare it to some other activity that is a more familiar one. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of X-Rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources. Actually, this is the equivalent for film technology. Our digital images are even less than a day in the outdoors while wearing our lead apron.
How often should dental x-rays be taken?
Let's start at the beginning. A patient who is being evaluated for the first time should have, at the very least, a panograph. It should be an excellent quality film and be less than three years old. If it shows no pathology then that might be the only radiograph needed. The greater the amount of pathology, historically, the more agressive will be the preventive efforts to stay ahead of the problems. That is the best "big picture" way of answering the question, "How much is enough?"
It is no coincidence that the "average" patient needs a panograph once every three to five years and "check up bite wing" images annually. I have patients who have X-Rays and exams every two years, but they are not average. It is not fair that some people have great genetics, had great early preventive care, and were taught good hygiene habits at an early age. It is fair that we start from where we are and make the best of what we have to work with.