Why is Digital X-Ray Important in Dental Treatments?
A dental X-ray provides insight into some of the most difficult dental problems to see with the naked eye. Using digital radiography not only diagnoses problems but also develops treatment plans. Dental radiography is an irreplaceable diagnostic tool. Dental X-rays show problems such as tooth decay, misalignment, soft tissue damage and periodontal disease that escape visual detection. While most adults rarely get x-rays, children often need regular x-rays to check the progress of newly erupted teeth and orthodontics. However, you may need more regular imaging if you smoke, have periodontal disease, orthodontic or chronic dry mouth.
What is a Dental X-Ray?
An x-ray uses energy in the form of waves, similar to light waves. In fact, the only difference between light and x-rays is that light does not have enough energy to travel through the human body, whereas x-rays exist. However, both types of energy can form images on photographic film and are used to take photographs.
Diagnostic Dental X-rays
Your dental X-rays can tell an important story about your dental health. In most cases, dental X-rays help discover tooth decay that is hidden under the surface or very difficult to see with the naked eye. X-ray images can also show cavities or small tooth cracks under dental restorations. Additionally, we can see areas of jawbone damage from abscesses, gum disease, dental injury or tooth loss. Dental X-rays are also useful for detecting signs of oral cancer.
Types of Dental Radiography
The most common type of dental x-rays are called bite x-rays. You probably have at least one of these. Do you remember biting into the film holder? This view allows your dentist to see all your teeth in a panorama and is very effective in finding tooth decay. X-rays taken from different angles may focus on just a few teeth or on the gums and other soft tissues.
If you have implants or certain types of surgery (such as 20-year-old tooth extraction), you may need a computed tomography (CT) scan. Digital CT scans take images from any angle to create a 3D view of your jaws and teeth; This image is used by surgeons and restorative dentists working with it. You may also need a CT scan if you have advanced periodontal disease or other oral conditions that cause bone loss.
Radiation Dose of Dental Radiography
While no ionizing radiation is completely safe, dental radiography exposes you to as much radiation as a flight from coast to coast. You are normally exposed to twice as much ionizing radiation every day; sources include cosmic radiation from stellar bodies, coal-fired power stations, computer monitors, and even bananas. Medical imaging accounts for 15% or more of the total radiation dose you receive in a year.
Is a Dental X-Ray Safe?
We understand that the modern dental patient is knowledgeable, inquisitive and concerned with safety. Digital X-rays use up to 80 percent less radiation than the already small amounts in conventional X-rays. In addition, our digital x-ray films are instantly available on the computer screen. No more waiting for processing or using harmful chemicals to develop the film.
Advances in Technology
Radiography for dentistry has made several advances in technique and technology to offer patients greater safety with dental x-rays. For example, dental x-rays are exposed to as little radiation as possible, with a small, localized beam less than three inches in diameter. Dental x-ray machines have also been developed to release the least amount of stray radiation possible. In fact, lead aprons used to protect patients from stray radiation are often beneficial for the patient’s peace of mind, as stray radiation from modern dental x-rays is virtually nonexistent.
Faster film and film holders help make the process more accurate and faster, so there are fewer repeated X-rays. Other safety measures include state guidelines that require the dental practice to inspect machinery and that the dentist’s work license must be renewed every two years. Digital radiography offers 80 percent less radiation than conventional X-rays.
What is a Rem?
This type of rem is not the kind used when talking about sleep cycles. It is a large unit of measurement used to measure radiation. Generally, the unit of millirem (mrem) is used. It takes 1000 mrem to equal 1 rem.
How Often Can You Have a Dental X-Ray?
Our dentist usually takes x-ray images of your teeth once a year to ensure optimum oral health. In other cases, X-rays may be used more frequently for diagnosis, procedure candidacy, and to check the progression of disease or cancer. For example, if you smoke or have a history of periodontal disease, you are more prone to a deterioration of your jawbone. Your dentist may recommend more frequent dental X-rays to determine the level of bone loss and what treatments can help restore healthy bone. Periodic checks for further decay under the restoration may be necessary in patients who have had restorative dentistry such as fillings or crowns.
What Else Do you Need to Know About a Dental X-ray?
Advances in technology allow your dentist to obtain a good x-ray image using far less radiation than was once necessary. Typically, a dental x-ray only exposes you to about 2 or 3 mrem, making it an effective and safe aid for diagnosing any oral condition or problems with your teeth or gums. The National Radiation Protection Council (NCRP) reports that the average person absorbs about 360 mrem each year from background radiation sources from outer space, radioactive material from Earth and small amounts of radioactive material in food, as well as the radiation we receive. Smoke detectors absorb from other sources, including living in a brick house, cooking with natural gas, reading books, and flying on an airplane.
Why Are They So Important?
X-rays are part of most routine dental exams, but many patients fear the thought of exposing themselves to radiation. Dental x-rays are an important tool your dentist uses to help you maintain quality oral health, and most dentists and other medical professionals consider x-rays a crucial component of patient care. To understand whether the radiation emitted by x-rays is harmful or not, we must first understand what an x-ray beam is.
The next time you go to the dentist, don’t hesitate when your doctor requests an X-ray. Dentists rely in part on x-rays to keep your mouth healthy by catching oral conditions in the early stages.