Dental X-Rays: What do they do and how often do I need them?
Anyone who dreads the idea of going to the dentist, has canceled multiple appointments, and breaks out in a cold sweat thinking about a visit knows that dental anxiety is very real.
Luckily, more dental professionals are taking steps to make the experience a little more bearable for every patient. Sometimes it’s trying to be conscious of everything from noisy tools to ways of distracting patients, such as headphones or TVs. Sometimes it can be a light sedative.
Another big part is trying to de-mystify some of the procedures, such as taking them step-by-step through cleaning or explaining what to expect during dental x-rays.
X-rays can be particularly concerning by their very nature – invisible waves that can contain radiation certainly sounds scary. It’s even more scary when an assistant covers you with a big blanket and leaves the room.
But the good news is that dental x-rays are very important and very safe. They give information about the condition of teeth and the jaw that a dentist may not be able to see during an exam. They can detect everything from cracks to cavities, and can be especially useful for younger patients to see how their jaws and teeth are developing, especially as permanent teeth begin growing behind the baby teeth.
There are several types of x-rays that can be offered depending on whether it’s a routine exam, what part of the mouth is being examined or if there’s a need for more attention to certain areas. But they’re all painless, and even better, medical authorities conclude that the amount of radiation contained in a few x-rays a year is very small. But they do cover your chest organs as a general precaution.
Dental professionals, however, are encouraged to follow safety precautions. While you may only have one x-ray during your visit, they may perform dozens of them all day, all week long. This much chronic exposure could be damaging, which is why they’re encouraged to wait behind a lead barrier.
If concerns about radiation from dental x-rays are part of your dental anxiety, feel free to discuss with your dentist or his or her staff. They likely have heard this question before – perhaps they even asked it themselves when they were in dental school.
They can discuss how the process has become even safer, and many dentists also have switched to digital x-ray plates instead of photographic film.
Some dental professionals may have even more safety equipment available for patients who are concerned, such as a collar that can cover the throat and block possible exposure to the thyroid. If you’re pregnant, you also can and should opt out of x-rays.