Dental x-ray has profoundly improved dental health and yet this important part of a dental check up is avoided by many. Based on what I hear from my clients, there are two reasons for this...
Dental radiographs cost as much as a cleaning in some cases, making them an obvious target for price conscious consumers.
Fear of radiation keeps others from having them taken. When is it safe to skip dental x-rays?
We are bombarded with studies linking various foods and lifestyles to cancer.
We all want to protect ourselves from cancer. Radiation should be avoided unless the benefit outweighs the risk.
Since radiation from dental radiographs is remarkably low, and radiation from digital x-ray even lower, dental xrays should not be feared but should be taken only when necessary. How many and how often?
Healthy vs Unhealthy Bone ~ Dental x-ray is the best and sometimes only way to evaluate the health of your bone.
Solid (or soft) Enamel ~ Enamel is the hardest material in your body. X-ray images show density or more importantly, where density or hardness is weakening.
Dentists are able to see slight weakness in your enamel and detect a cavity long before it could be seen otherwise.
Many cavities start between teeth and are invisible (without x-rays) for a very long time.
Previous Dental Treatment ~ Most of us have a filling or two, some of us have fillings, crowns, root canals, bridges, implants...you get the idea. X-rays allow the dentist to closely monitor your dental work.
It's a good question, considering dentists are one of the few health care providers to recommend radiographs "just in case".
Most dentists recommend bitewing x-rays (4-7 radiographs) every year and a full set (18 radiographs) of x-rays every 3-5 years.
Of course, when and how many you have taken is up to you...
There is wiggle room in every recommendation and dental x-rays are no exception.
If you never have cavities and have no periodontal (gum) problems, consider having yours taken less frequently.