Dental X-rays offer important details about a patient’s oral health, including the condition of their teeth and gums. We can identify tooth issues early on thanks to X-rays, which will spare you time, pain, and money. Although diagnostic radiology is proven to be safe and effective, many patients still have anxiety when they hear the word “radiation.” Sadly, false information persists despite the wealth of evidence showing the safety of x-rays.
We’ll explore dental X-rays and dispel the most prevalent myths about them with scientific facts to prevent misinformation and bring you clarity and peace of mind.
What Are Dental X-Rays?
Dental x-rays are nothing but a form of energy that is passed through an object (the patient’s mouth in this case) to provide a complete image of your oral structures, including your upper and lower jaws, temporomandibular joints, teeth, sinus cavities, and nasal area.
- Cephalometric x-rays show us the entire side of your head so we can view the jaw and teeth in relation to your profile.
- Panoramic x-rays show the entire mouth and oral tissues in one x-ray.
Digital dental x-rays are an improvement over conventional x-rays that have been used at dental offices for decades. In digital x-rays, we project a low dosage of ionizing radiation through you and onto the electronic sensor in both forms of x-rays. Your head is placed between a mechanical arm and an electronic sensor. The image appears on the screen shortly after the sensor is linked to a computer. This is a significant advantage over conventional x-rays that require developing film that takes a longer time to develop and exposes patients to much higher levels of radiation.
Dentists who perform digital intraoral x-rays can now implant tiny electronic sensors in your mouth in place of the painful, drool-inducing bitewings.
For identifying specific issues with the mouth, teeth, and jaw bone region, dental X-rays are crucial. Even a comprehensive physical examination cannot find problems that an X-ray can.
Myths And Facts About Dental X-Rays
Without diagnostic radiography, commonly known as X-rays, your dentist may not be able to accurately diagnose your dental condition. Your dentist uses the panoramic or 3D images from your intra-oral basic radiography to help them decide on the right treatment for you.
However, some patients believe that dental x-rays are harmful because of some misconceptions. I’ll debunk the common myths and false beliefs about dental x-rays.
Myth 1: Dental X-Rays Are Unnecessary And An Excuse For Dentists To Charge More
I come across patients who believe dental x-rays are unnecessary. Some even believe that it’s a ploy by dentists to charge more. But they do not know the importance of dental x-Rays.
Some people think dental x-rays are unnecessary because your teeth are visible in your mouth. However, they are crucial for viewing your jawbone and the roots of your teeth which are not visible to the naked eye. As a result, your dentist might not detect a potential dental problem without the use of x-rays.
Dental x-rays are essential for identifying bone abnormalities, tooth positions beneath the gum line, gum disease, and tooth decay. Besides identifying the position of the teeth beneath the gums, it also looks for dental decay, gum disease, and jawbone problems.
Myth 2: Dental X-Rays Cause Brain Tumors
Dental x-rays are an ultra-targeted form of x-ray that digitally captures a very small part of your body as opposed to a larger area such as a chest or stomach X-ray. Moreover, dental x-rays emit less radiation compared to other types of x-rays. While all types of x-rays are considered safe, dental x-rays would be among the safest.
The American College of Radiation has an x-ray radiation comparison chart where you can see how the x-ray of your chest emits hundreds of times more radiation than dental x-rays using film. Digital x-rays are even safer than film x-rays with significantly lowered radiation exposure than traditional film.
Additionally, with the dental x-rays orthodontists take, the machine is in constant motion, so no one area of your head receives a steady, continuous, and concentrated stream. Any cancer risk associated with radiation is based on your cumulative exposure and not necessarily on what body part is being x-rayed.
There is no danger in dental x-rays being in close proximity to the brain. Dental x-rays can not harm the brain. It’s crucial to only get an x-ray when it’s really required and the dentist has advised you to.
Myth 3: Dental X-Rays Cause Cancer
Another misconception is that the radiation from dental x-rays might cause cancer.
This is just not true.
Dental x-rays emit so little radiation that their potential to cause cancer is virtually nonexistent. The danger of developing cancer from dental x-rays is minimal. As previously stated, excessive radiation exposure can cause cancer, but a brief flight exposes passengers to more radiation than a dental x-ray.
The only way dental x-rays might put you at risk is if you were exposed to them for hours at a time, which would never happen. No patient will be exposed for hours at a time to x-rays. X-rays are taken with 0.08-0.16 of a second! Additionally, dental offices adhere to the necessary regulations and safety protocols such as adhering to the ALARA principles and employing shielding.
Myth 4: Digital X-Rays Are Dangerous For Children, Pregnant Women, And Nursing Mothers
There are certain groups that are discouraged from receiving dental x-rays such as pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children. One of the numerous myths surrounding dental X-rays is that they can expose pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children to radiation.
In reality, dental X-rays emit a negligible quantity of radiation, and the exposure duration for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children is minimal.
Mammograms and X-rays are frequently used to determine the health of nursing moms, among other diagnostic procedures. Obtaining a dental X-ray at the dentist is not very different from these other procedures.
However, you still need to inform your dentist if you’re a woman who’s pregnant or nursing and wait for their advice before taking a dental x-ray exam.
Myth 5: Dental X-Rays Are Necessary Every Year
Most people need an exam every six months, but your dentist will recommend X-rays and visits based on your dental needs and hygiene. Dental checkups and exams find hidden problems early. Dental x-rays are the best way to catch any latent oral and health conditions early and treat them promptly.
If you have good dental health, you don’t need dental x-rays every year.
Dental X-rays are the best way to detect cavities, gum disease, and other conditions. Radiographs can detect cancers and infections early, letting your dentist provide the best therapy. Our Redwood City dentist community strives to provide you with safe and comfortable dental care.
Disclaimer: We routinely draw upon public health resources to inform our write-ups. Information in this article may be drawn up from multiple public health sources, including:
American Dental Association’s MouthHealthy.org
California Dental Association
American Dental Association’s Action for Dental Health
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention