Family dental care is the practice of preventative dentistry. The goal is to catch problems early to prevent or slow major problems like gum disease or root decay. While dental X-rays are used for emergency dentistry, they are also an important part of family dental care. Most patients visit the dentist twice a year for regular checkups, and dental X-rays are typically taken once a year.

So why does your dentist take X-rays?

Dental X-rays Help Dentists Check for Deep-Rooted Problems

When dentists take X-rays, they are looking for:

  • Tooth decay that may not be visible during an oral exam, especially between the teeth or beneath a filling.
  • Bone loss that comes with gum disease.
  • The health of dental work like crowns and amalgam or composite fillings.
  • Signs of infection shown in changes to the bone or root canal or an abscessed tooth.
  • Problems with spacing between teeth
  • Any issues with secondary teeth or wisdom teeth coming in for children and teens.

Different Types of X-Rays

Dental X-rays may be more complex than you may have realized! There are many different kinds of X-rays available to help spot different problems.

Intraoral X-rays

If you’ve never had major issues with your teeth or gums, you’ve probably only had Intraoral X-rays, or X-rays from inside your mouth. Intraoral X-rays are the most common type of X-ray in family dental care. They are used to detect cavities, observe the status of developing teeth, examine the status of dental work like fillings and crowns, and check the general health of your teeth.

Extraoral X-rays

Extraoral X-rays, or X-rays taken from outside your mouth, are not as detailed as Intraoral X-rays. They focus more on the jaw and skull and are used to spot “big picture” problems like impacted teeth, problems with jaw development or other bones in your face.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

The answer is yes, as long as the dental office keeps their equipment in current, in good repair, and follows guidelines for safe operation.

Some patients have concerns about the radiation from X-rays. The American Dental Association (ADA) emphasizes that “Radiation exposure associated with dentistry represents a minor contribution to the total exposure from all sources, including natural and man-made.” Both the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) and ADA have produced guidelines to maximize patient safety and minimize potential risk, including for children. You can read the CDA guidelines here.

X-rays have become even safer with technology advances. Newer digital dental x-rays are even more efficient and safer than traditional film x-rays.

Digital X-rays are Even Safer!

Most dentists have either switched to digital X-rays, or are planning to switch in the near future. Digital X-rays have a lot of advantages over traditional film X-rays.

  • Digital X-rays use even less radiation than film X-rays, and there’s no time waiting for images to develop. Digital images are sent to the computer for analysis seconds after the image is taken.
  • Digital images are easy to enlarge and zoom in on part of the image to examine any problems with the tooth or root up close.
  • Digital images are easier to send to another dentist (like a specialist) so they can view the problem and quickly provide a second opinion.

How Often Do I Need X-Rays?

You may need dental X-rays immediately if you have a dental emergency like a broken tooth or lost adult teeth, or if your dentist suspects there may be a cavity in your tooth and wants to take a closer look.

With regular family dental care, Dentists may recommend X-rays as often as every six months for patients with conditions like gum disease. If there are no concerns with your teeth, you have all your adult teeth, and there is no problem with your wisdom teeth, your dentist may recommend X-rays only once a year or even every couple of years.

Dentists also typically take X-rays with new patients to check the overall condition of their teeth and jawbone in order to set a baseline for future treatment.

Try Cranberry Hill Dentistry for Professional Family Dental Care in Waterdown

Dr. Aaron Langdon and the team at Cranberry Hill Dentistry are committed to providing exceptional service, using the most up-to-date dentistry techniques and most current technology. We work hard to create a warm, inviting atmosphere, and to make every visit positive and comfortable. Contact our offices to book an appointment today!