Dental x-rays have been a hot topic for the last several years, with many Americans interested in weighing the positives against the negatives, and wondering how many dental x-rays are too many. Smile On Dental Salon & Sleep Apnea Center looks closer at the pros and cons associated with dental x-rays, and discusses the latest alternatives.
Dental X-Rays: Pros
The biggest advantage offered by dental x-rays is the ability for a dentist to “see through” your mouth and get a realistic look at the teeth, bones, and tissue inside. Before x-ray technology existed, dentists were more or less flying blind, having to rely on instinct, patient input, and personal experience.
Also, patients who possess a high risk for cavities benefit most from x-rays, since the dentist can consistently monitor the patient’s teeth, confirm progress, and make treatment adjustments where necessary.
Dental X-Rays: Cons
The biggest downside to dental x-rays is, of course, radiation. Many people go to the dentist for a checkup every six months, and during each appointment receive four bitewing x-rays. The total amount of radiation in four such x-rays is around .005 millisieverts of radiation, which is equivalent to the amount of radiation a person is exposed to during an average day (sun, cell towers, etc.). A panoramic dental x-ray machine, which goes around a patient’s head, delivers twice as much radiation. These numbers might not seem like much, until you remember that radiation accumulates in the human body over time.
Children, because of their developing bodies and the fact that their cells are rapidly dividing, are especially at risk of radiation. Of particular concern is the thyroid gland, which is acutely sensitive to radiation and fully exposed to a dental x-ray, unless the patient requests a thyroid shield.
Another problem is that not all dentists follow the guidelines set forth by the American Dental Association (ADA), which specify that dentists should evaluate each patient. So whereas children not at high risk of cavities should only be x-rayed every 1 – 2 years (and adults every 2 – 3 years), instead their dentist asks for x-rays every six months.
Is There an Alternative?
Over the last few years, an alternative called digital imaging has gained significant traction in the dental industry. Our dentist serving Deerfield regularly employs digital imaging, which in addition to generating far less radiation than a traditional x-ray, offers several notable advantages:
- Speed: images are sent directly to a computer and available in just a few seconds
- Flexible: unlike a static x-ray, a digital image can be enlarged and enhanced to the dentist’s liking in order to clearly describe a potential issue to the patient
- Configurable: more and more software is being created to optimize the digital imaging experience. For example, one program allows for “subtraction radiography”, which lets the dentist put two images side by side and “subtract out” their commonalities, making it easy to discern even the tiniest differences between the two.
- Communicable: if the dentist wants a second opinion from a specialist, all he has to do is email the images. This is also helpful when a patient moves and needs his images sent to a new dentist.
Smile On Dental Is Committed To Your Safety
Our family dentist is committed to your safety, which is why we’re always looking to employ safe, effective technologies like digital imaging. Contact us today, make an appointment, and indulge professional dental practices that care not just for your teeth, but your overall personal health.