Dental X-Rays: Benefits vs. Risks

Dental X-Rays: Benefits vs. Risks

What are the benefits of a dental radiograph examination?

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth. An X-ray examination may reveal:

    • small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations
    • infections in the bone
    • periodontal disease
    • abscesses or cysts
    • developmental abnormalities
    • some types of tumors

Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort. It can reveal things not visible during a regular exam. If you have a hidden tumor, radiographs may even help save your life.

We share patients concern about x-rays and take every precaution to minimize exposure.   Every patient is draped with a lead radiation apron and thyroid collar before any x-ray is taken.   Only the highest speed films are used. Radiation is minimized because less time is required to expose the film.

What if I'm pregnant and need a dental radiograph examination?

A radiograph may be needed for dental treatment or a dental emergency that can’t wait until after the baby is born. Untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, and dental treatment may be necessary to maintain the health of the mother and child. Dental radiographs are not contraindicated if one is trying to become pregnant or is breast feeding.

How much has dental x radiation been studied and how concerned should I be about having dental x rays done? Is there a limit on how many I can have?

The amount of radiation from dental x rays is among the lowest radiation dose exam of any diagnostic radiologic procedure. The amount from a full-mouth series of intraoral films (usually 18-20 films) is less than what a person receives in a month from environmental background exposure. The amount of radiation from bitewing or panoramic films are even less. New technology is reducing the doses still...