In today’s day and age, there are thousands of articles telling us how dangerous everyday life can be from “Bacon Gives Kids Cancer,” to “Junk Food in Pregnancy Leaves Children Fat For Life”. Seriously, look them up. The sheer volume of these, often terrifying, sometimes misleading, headlines may be enough to send you running back inside your home. You may even think it would be best to skip your x-rays at the dental office. Who needs more exposure to radiation? When you’re tempted to tell your dentist or hygienist you don’t want x-rays, remember that only about a third of a tooth is visible without x-ray. This means you’re leaving two thirds of your oral health at risk. Learn more about the most common x-rays you’ll get at your dentist’s office and why they are so important.
Dentists typically take several bitewings to evaluate your teeth. Bitewings show the top and bottom back molars. If you’ve had them before, you may remember that you had to bite down on a device that wraps around the outside of your cheek. These are used most often to detect or prevent cavities and can show decay between the teeth that goes undetected without the x-ray. By getting your bitewings done, you could save yourself the pain and cost of fillings or crowns down the road.
Panoramic x-rays capture your entire mouth. They give your dentist a comprehensive look at your teeth and jaw. Your dentist will likely use this to evaluate your wisdom teeth and screen for cancer in your jawbone. Panoramic x-rays are the most efficient and accurate ways to determine if your wisdom teeth can stay or go.
A periapical x-ray is usually requested when there is a specific ache or pain. Periapical x-ray captures the tips of the roots of your teeth and are a key indicator of the vitality of your teeth.
Of course, there are several other types of dental x-rays, but the three listed above are the x-rays you will most likely encounter.
Wherever you are, you are exposed to low-level, background radiation. From talking on your phone to taking a plane ride, a certain degree of radiation exposure is present. When it comes to dental x-rays, machines vary, but exposure is typically very low. For example, 4 bitewings is less than one day of natural background radiation or approximately a 1 to 2 hour plane ride. To put this in perspective, a chest x-ray is equivalent to 10 days of background radiation. A CT scan is equivalent to about 7 years of background radiation.
If you have concerns about the financial implications behind x-rays, you have several options. If you have insurance, call and see which x-rays are covered. If you don’t have insurance, speak to your dentist and you may find you have several options available. At The John Fornetti Dental Center, we have several options for you to choose from including our custom Dental Savings Plan which covers your exam, cleaning and x-rays. Speak to your dentist about your options. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind, that by passing up your x-rays, you may be missing any developing problems in your mouth. These problems, like a cavity or infection, almost always costs more to fix than simply getting your x-rays and preventing the development of the problem. Preventative care is almost always less expensive than restorative care. If you have a problem developing, getting an x-ray and catching it will hands down be less expensive than fixing a major problem down the road.
Getting x-rays taken can sometime be uncomfortable, however, if you start the conversation with your dentist or hygienist, they will likely be able to make some small adjustments to make you more comfortable. Having a strong gag reflex or having a smaller mouth can present a challenge, but with a few changes you will likely be able to get those eye-opening x-rays that are so important to your oral health.
You wouldn’t want your dentist to put a blindfold on right before they started treatment. Most individuals would also like to avoid a large filling, root canal or crown. So, when your dentist says you need updated x-rays, trust that he or she does so to provide you with the most competent and comprehensive care. X-rays can be intimidating but if you talk to your doctor they should be able to alleviate some of your fears or concerns.