Written by: Dr. Jessica Kudlats
Are dental x-rays necessary? Is the radiation bad for us? How often do I need them? Daily we get asked these questions and the answer is simple. It is patient specific. There are certain guidelines dentists follow according to the age of the individual, their current oral hygiene state, caries risk, previous dental work, periodontal health and current state of their dental work.
When dentists perform the recall exam, we are unable to see what is happening in between the teeth, below the gums, inside the bones and under older dental work. X-rays will help provide the necessary information stated above so dentists can make a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan for their patients.
X-rays also aid in detecting pathology i.e. benign and malignant tumours and cysts that may exist inside the bone, jaw or sinuses. Certain x-rays aid in helping dentists and surgeons place implants in the correct positions as well as locate wisdom teeth far up in the jaw bone, for easy removal.
The Canadian Dental Association suggests that an adult with good oral hygiene and low risk of dental problems should have X-rays taken at 24-36 month intervals. Kids will require x-rays more often, every 9-12 months, because their teeth are smaller and cavities can spread through their teeth a lot quicker, thereby making them more vulnerable to infection.
Let us now discuss the radiation that concerns so many people. Did you know that everyday you are exposed to natural radiation in the environment? ‘Radiation constantly rains down on us from outer space. There are elements in the earth that produce a steady stream of radioactive particles. Depending upon where you live and travel on our planet, you will receive between 3000 and 4000 micro-Sieverts of radiation each year ‘ states Sunnybrook’s Department of Dentistry.
How many micro-sieverts does 1 dental x-ray produce? A dose of 8 or 9 with digital film. Therefore a relatively small amount when compared with the radiation you receive from natural sources. Dental x-rays deliver the lowest dose of radiation of any medical x-ray.
Most importantly, all dental offices are required to place a lead apron on every patient to protect the patient’s body as well as a lead neck collar to protect the thyroid and glands.
So the next time your dentist recommends x-rays, feel free to ask your dentist for an explanation as to why they feel it’s necessary for you and how they will use the information for treatment of your mouth.