While some patients may be concerned about potential risks from too much exposure to radiation, x-rays (radiographs) are a necessary part of the dental health process and are safe when performed following standard guidelines for radiology.
Radiographs allow dentists to see and interpret signs of disease or potential problems that are not visible through direct observation. X-rays are used to discover abscesses (pus-pockets), cysts and tumors. They help dentists locate impacted, unerupted or extra teeth and determine congenitally missing teeth.
Radiographs demonstrate the presence or degree of periodontal (gum) disease. And x-rays pinpoint the location and severity of cavities that are not visible to the naked eye. Basically, radiographs provide a view of the underlying structure and condition of teeth, soft tissue and bone. Foregoing x-rays could result in an inaccurate diagnosis or incomplete treatment.
Usually, new adult patients will be given a full series of x-rays that serve as a frame of reference for future changes. The time frame between x-rays, the type of x-rays and number of follow-up x-rays will be determined by your dentist's assessment of your needs and the condition of your mouth. Growth and development are additional factors taken into account with young children.
Certain situations such as root canal treatment, necessitate several x-rays as part of the procedure. Patients with periodontal disease or implants will require radiographs at specific intervals to monitor their condition.
"X-rays." Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/x/x-rays.aspx. Accessed 2013.
"Why Do I Need X-rays." Know Your Teeth, American Academy of General Dentistry. January 2012. http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=W&iid=342&aid=1373. Accessed 2013.
"Patients: Your Office Visit." American Association of Endodontists. http://www.aae.org/Patients/Your_Office_Visit/Your_Office_Visit.aspx. Accessed 2013.