One of the primary reasons we go to the dentist is to detect problems before they turn into serious concerns. While a physical examination can find signs of issues, some oral diseases are just not visible to the naked eye. This is why dental X-rays are such an important part of oral care. Dental X-rays can detect even the slightest traces of oral health problems at their earliest stages, such as cavities, gum disease, oral infections, and some types of tumors. With early detection, you can get the treatment you need before problems have a chance to develop. If after examining your mouth and reviewing these images, your dentist finds no cavities or growth issues, you can rest assured he or she has seen the whole picture. Here is some more info on x-rays:

A Diagnostic Tool
X-rays give your dentist the ability to see between and inside your teeth. They can also view the tip of your roots and bone underneath your gums – places not normally visible to the naked eye. Although they are used as part of a routine examination to rule out dental disease, X-rays also aid your dentist in diagnosing any specific or isolated dental problems you might be experiencing. They are also used to check for cavities and evaluate the extent of decay. Because some X-rays show the root of the tooth, the presence of any cysts, abscesses and other masses can be diagnosed. Congenitally missing or impacted teeth such as wisdom teeth are often identified this way, and the presence and extent of bone loss due to periodontal disease is easily seen through dental X-rays as well.

For adults, dental X-rays can:
• Show areas of decay that may not be visible with an oral exam, especially small areas of decay between teeth
• Identify decay occurring beneath an existing filling
• Reveal bone loss that accompanies gum disease
• Reveal changes in the bone or in the root canal resulting from infection
• Assist in the preparation of tooth implants, braces, dentures, or other dental procedures
• Reveal an abscess (an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth)
• Reveal other developmental abnormalities, such as cysts and some types of tumors

For children, dental X-rays can:
• Show decay
• Determine if there is enough space in the mouth to fit all incoming teeth
• Determine if primary teeth are being lost quickly enough to allow permanent teeth to come in properly
• Check for the development of wisdom teeth and identify if the teeth are impacted (unable to emerge through the gums)

How Often Should Teeth Be X-Rayed?
The frequency of getting X-rays of your teeth often depends on your medical and dental history and current condition. Some people may need X-rays as often as every six months; while others with nothing recently wrong and who visit their dentist regularly may get X-rays only every couple of years. If you are a new patient, your dentist may take X-rays as part of the initial exam and to establish a record from which to compare changes that may occur over time. Kids often have different oral care needs. They have thinner tooth enamel than adults and their jaws are still growing and their teeth are still developing. Because of this they may need more frequent X-rays than their parents, especially if they have a history of cavities.

X-ray Safety
Because X-ray machines are designed to minimize radiation, these processes are safe and your exposure is negligible. Many offices, in fact, are now using digital X-rays, which further reduces radiation exposure. Nonetheless, it is recommended that patients have the added protection of a leaded apron to cover the abdominal area and a leaded collar to protect the thyroid. Always let your dentist know if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding — necessary X-rays can still be completed, as long as you’re wearing a fitted lead apron and thyroid collar.

If you have any questions about x-rays and your teeth, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.