Most of us will have had a dental x-ray either during a regular check-up or when we’re experiencing problems. We might not have thought much about the process but x-rays are a very important diagnostic tool for dentists, allowing them to see what is happening deep within the teeth and jaw. While some people are wary of x-rays, there’s really no reason to worry about them – they are a very low risk, simple and effective way of monitoring our dental health and flagging up otherwise invisible problems that may require treatment.
What Does Having an X-ray Involve?
X-rays may be recommended by your dentist anywhere from every 6 to every 24 months as part of your usual check-ups, depending upon your dental history. If you’re visiting the surgery because you’re experiencing discomfort, it’s likely that an x-ray will be taken to help your dentist determine exactly what is going on.
The process itself is easy, painless and takes very little time. Before the x-ray is taken an apron is placed over your body to protect against any radiation and a small piece of plastic is placed in your mouth. This is the x-ray film and you’ll be asked to bite down on it to keep it in place. The x-ray machine can then be moved into the correct position near your head and you’ll be asked to stay very still so that a clear image can be recorded. At this point the dentists and any assistants will very briefly step out of the room whilst the x-ray is taken but don’t be alarmed by this! Remember, they take a large number of x-rays every week so it’s just a precautionary measure to limit their exposure to radiation and is nothing to worry about. It’s certainly true that ‘radiation’ is a word with negative associations for most of us. However, dental x-rays are considered to be very safe – according to UK government statistics, the amount of radiation they expose you to is actually less than 100g of brazil nuts or a transatlantic flight! The risk is also lower than many other common types of x-ray, although (as with all x-rays) if you are pregnant it’s a good idea to mention it to your dentist as they may decide not to proceed under those circumstances.
Are All X-rays the Same?
There are a few different kinds of x-ray that can be taken depending upon what the dentist wants to have a look at. We’ll dispense with the fancy jargon but essentially the smaller x-rays take an image of a few teeth at a time and there are larger versions that can show each side of the jaw, face or even the entire mouth. Whatever type of x-ray you may have it will show the dentist what is happening not just in the teeth themselves but in all the supporting structures too.
What Can They Reveal?
- Decay and cavities within and between the teeth
- Changes in the bone of the jaw
- Infections, cysts and tumours
- Bite problems
- The development of children’s teeth
- The way in which wisdom teeth are coming through
- Whether teeth are touching and occluding one another
- Whether the jawbone is suitable for implants
- Dental injuries such as broken tooth roots
- The position of teeth when fitting braces
As you can see, there are a number of reasons why your dentist may need to take an x-ray but the benefits far outweigh the risks and it is not a procedure that should give you any cause for concern.
If you have any further questions regarding x-rays or any of our other dental procedures, please get in touch with us on 01239 820083.