I wanted to just talk a little bit about dental X-Rays.
Routine radiographs are critically important in trying to perform the most painless, conservative and minimally invasive dentistry.
About 35% of the cavities I diagnose are directly and solely from seeing them on a radiograph. Not just that, if we missed finding them then most of them would not be found until they grew larger and would require more work to save the tooth, or even possibly loss of the tooth.
Now, not all cavities and problems have radiographic presences. You can even have a very large cavity that is either under a crown or filling or very generalized and diffuse and is virtually unrecognizable.
What about their safety?
From the time I was a kid to the time I stopped using film to take X-Rays there was about a 75% reduction in the amount of exposure needed for each film.
With digital systems we are using up to 90% less exposure than that.
Dental images need to penetrate so few tissues that they are in a completely different category from every other type of radiographic examination.
Not only that the beans get better focused virtually eliminating any scatter.
How often should you have them taken?
A general rule is for check-up bitewings to be taken once a year. In some people that might not be often enough if they keep developing cavities. I’ve seen cavities with huge radiographic presences in as little as 6 months after having taken an image that doesn’t show it at all!
Other patients that are not having problems with cavities might be OK with going a couple years without having them The problem is that YOU DON’T KNOW WHEN THOSE COUPLE YEARS ARE!!!
I’ve unfortunately had a few patients that have made it into their 40’s without having a single cavity, get complacent and then have to get root canals, crowns, toothaches and extractions as a result of cavities that were undiagnosed.
The other type of routine images we take show the whole length of the tooth in the bone and are part of a full series (FMX) that we take anywhere from every 3 years in patients with periodontal disease and other problems to 5-8 years.
We always start with these for all of our new patients unless they have had an FMX recently. Pretty standard in dentistry.
The FMX is invaluable in diagnosing periodontal and other problems.
Believe it or not, about 10% of the time we take an FMX we find evidence of a tooth that is dead and infected. These are teeth in which patients may have never have felt any pain or noticed to have any problems. These teeth are spewing their bacteria locally and systemically.
This is where you hear about the reports of people with dental infections are 4-5 times more likely to suffer serious problems like stokes and other cardio vascular problems.
They are also the kind of problems that could cause infection somewhere else in your body like around a prosthetic joint or a heart valve.
If you have an infected upper tooth it will almost always spread into you r sinuses!!!
So, diagnostic X-Rays can help save you a lot of problems down the road. They are well worth the few seconds of having that sensor thingy in your mouth to help avoid bigger problems.