Dental X-Rays Save Teeth (and even lives!)

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

The last time you were in our office, did you get x-rays? Have you routinely had x-rays taken but haven’t had a cavity for years? Are you wondering why I or your hygienist keep taking x-rays annually?


Dental x-rays, or radiographs, are a critical component to any oral health care regimen. Think, along with routine brushing and flossing and visits to your dentist, dental x-rays play a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of dental problems. Often, x-rays allow something small to be treated (like a filling) versus waiting a long time and needing more extensive work (like a root canal). X-rays can also show potential life-threatening problems, like infections that can easily spread to other parts of the body.


You might be wondering, Is it safe to get dental x-rays?

At Smiletheory, we use digital ultra-low dose radiology equipment. This means where a traditional, analog x-ray dose averages 0.6-0.9 mrem, our x-ray is 0.4 mrem. For context, flying from New York to Los Angeles is 4 mrem (that’s 10x more dose, but how many times have you heard someone not fly because “that’s too much radiation?”) The average chest x-ray is 10 mrem, which is 25x more dose than a typical dental radiograph!

To limit radiation exposure to neighboring parts of the body, a weighted lead apron is placed over your thyroid and abdomen. Dr. Singh performs a check up and uses the x-rays along with a physical exam to detect damage affecting the roots and bone of teeth. The x-rays also allow the doctor to see in between teeth, which cannot be done with the exam alone. 


What if I don’t want to get x-rays taken?

While routine x-rays are recommended annually, more or less x-rays may be taken depending on your unique situation and dental health. If you’ve had a root canal, for example, routine annual x-rays are recommended to monitor the health of the treatment and diagnose any possible complications. Discuss any concerns you have with Dr. Singh and the Smiletheory team so that a customized plan can be made that’s right for you. 


What is a panoramic x-ray and why do I need one?

Think of a panoramic x-ray as “landscape mode.” More details are shown for a variety of structures that cannot be seen with a typical dental x-ray. Dr. Singh may prescribe a panoramic x-ray for you if you have TMJ issues or if you have wisdom teeth that need to be removed. 


While dental x-rays do expose patients to a small amount of radiation, the benefits outweigh any  harmful effects. Dental x-rays equip the dental team with much needed information about your teeth and gums, information that can’t be seen by the naked eye. 


As always, we’re here to answer any questions you have. Shoot us an email or give us a call and one of our Smiletheory team members will be happy to assist.