The feeling of a cold heavy vest on your chest or a panoramic X-ray device scanning your mouth for examination makes you wonder how safe it is. When going through the test you are even told to hold completely still. It doesn’t help that the person administrating the test wears protective goggles and stands behind a door. While X-rays provide useful information that isn’t always visible, are you putting your health at risk by being subjected to the X-ray? What radiation safety requirements are in place for these scans? Are there special certifications that the dentist or dental assistant has to go through? These are legitimate questions; let’s explore the facts.
The Reason for X-Ray Tests
Family dentists say that X-rays can provide dentists with invaluable information. X-rays reveal structural problems beneath the surface of the gums that are not visible to the naked eye. For example, these scans can predict the way teeth might be shifting or growing in. People with crowns periodically need to get them replaced because they become loose or week. Loose crowns can be painful due to trapped air under the gums and creates a sensation that your tooth is going to fall out. X-rays will capture an image of the air pocket to give the dentist a better idea of where to be looking.
When To Get An X-Ray
If you are at the stage of your life when it would be a good idea to remove your wisdom teeth you might want to get an X-ray. If you have children that have permanent teeth growing in you will want to get an X-ray. Most reasons behind needing an X-ray come from pain. Your wisdom teeth start hurting or children’s teeth start hurting because the baby teeth are falling out.
Types of Dental X-Rays
- Bitewing provides an overview of both your top and bottom rows of teeth. This is specifically used to show progression of gum disease to identify if the patient has bone loss.
- Digital X-rays are captured on an SD card for archiving scans
- Occlusal, this type is designed to look below the surface of the skin better than the other scans. It’s great for finding new teeth that are about to break skin.
- Panoramic is a standup scanning machine that can view the nasal area and jaw. This is used for finding bone obstructions, tumors, or cysts.
- Periapical is similar to Panoramic in that it finds embedded issues. The difference is that it gives you a better idea of the inside of the tooth. It shows the root all the way deep into the bone.
Requirements for Radiation Safety
Each state sets different laws and regulations for the use of X-ray devices. It’s important to know what your state mandates in order to create a dentist office. It’s possible the office will need permits and licensing, radiation shielding protection for patient and staff, and approved X-ray record keeping.
Limit Radiation Exposure
It’s okay to ask your dentist why they want to give you an X-ray. This gives you a better understanding behind your visit and opens a level of transparency between dentist and patient. If you have heard the reason and you don’t feel comfortable you can decline the X-ray. Sometimes when you see a new dentist they like to have this information on hand. It’s a good idea to have your previous dentist release your medical history. If you haven’t had an X-ray in the last couple of years that is another reason for getting an X-ray because it keeps your dental record up to date. Plus, a lot can change over the course of a couple of years.
Dental X-Rays During Pregnancy
Depending on the severity of your issue, failure to diagnose and treat issues when you have a problem could be worse for the baby than the X-ray itself. As mentioned above, there are so many different kinds of X-Rays they can use to test your issue; your dentist will be able to determine the best one for you. Most offices have vests that you wear to protect you from harmful radiation. If you are pregnant, let your dentist know because that could change how the X-ray is administered. Remember, visiting your dentist is the only way to get the most current information on your oral health.