Before you decide to turn down dental x-rays at your next checkup appointment, stop and ask yourself if you truly know why your dentist recommends them. Maybe you’re thinking that since nothing is wrong with any of your teeth and you have no pain that x-rays are unnecessary. This is probably because you associate needing an x-ray with having something obviously wrong, like a broken bone or pain from an injury. The truth is that dental x-rays are often the only way to diagnose some dental conditions that are invisible to the naked eye.
Dental x-rays are used by your dentist to get a detailed and complete view of your teeth, gums, bones, jaw and roots of your teeth. Much of what an x-ray shows a dentist is below the surface and would potentially go undetected without the help of an x-ray. According to the Michigan Dental Association (MDA), dental x-rays help identify a variety of conditions and diseases, including:
“small cavities between the teeth;
- periodontal disease;
- impacted teeth;
- infections in the bone;
- developmental abnormalities; and
- certain growths, such as tumors and cysts.”
X-rays help spot small cavities between the teeth early so that your dentist can remove the decay before it has time to do more serious damage to the teeth. Spotting and removing decay early can help prevent more extensive and expensive dental treatments, such as root canals.
Periodontal disease is the infection of the bone and gums that surround your teeth. Its earliest stages often have no noticeable symptoms and this allows the disease to cause serious damage including bone and tooth loss.
An impacted tooth is a tooth that is unable to fully pass into the gums and erupt into the mouth. Wisdom teeth are sometimes impacted. This can happen when there isn’t enough room in the jaw to accommodate the new teeth. Dental x-rays allow the dentist to determine if there is enough room for the wisdom teeth to fit comfortably in the mouth and whether or not the teeth are growing in straight. Impacted teeth can damage surrounding teeth so identifying them early is helpful to protect the health of the rest of the teeth.
It is also important for your dentist to use dental x-rays to spot any dental abscesses, abnormalities, and growths that may be invisible to the naked eye. Oral cancer is most treatable when detected early and dental infections cannot heal themselves so it is vital that these conditions be found and addressed quickly.
Some people have concerns over the radiation received during dental x-rays. Dental x-rays only use a very small dose of radiation and your dentist will make sure you have all necessary safety precautions such as wearing a lead apron. If you have concerns about your dentist’s x-rays or equipment please be sure to ask at your next visit. Your overall health is the top priority of your dental team and they will be glad to answer any questions you may have about your dental care.
Bright Side Dental is a dental group with locations in Sterling Heights, St. Clair Shores, Livonia, Canton, and Royal Oak, Michigan. Visit www.BrightSideDental.com.