Dental X-Rays Safety and FAQs

Radiographs, otherwise known as x-rays, have come to be very important and necessary diagnostic tools for many medical and health professions, including dentistry. They are essential because they allow for maximal findings and improved diagnosis. Although the majority of the general public associate negative feelings towards x-rays, mostly regarding radiation exposure, it is important to understand their benefits, which ultimately greatly outweigh the costs.

X-Rays Detect:

  • Tooth decay
  • Cysts
  • Tumors
  • Bone Loss
  • Periodontal Disease
  • Pathologies
  • Defects in Restorations
  • Eruption Patterns of Incoming Adult Teeth
  • Tooth Positioning
  • Other Abnormalities

Must I Take X-Rays?
Absolutely! In order for the dentists to provide you with the highest level of care, we require new patients to take a full mouth x-ray. Traditionally, this requires 18 individual shots, however, to minimize patient exposure, we usually take a panoramic x-ray first, and then 6 additional close-up shots in a series called a 4×2. Additional shots focusing on areas of concern may be necessary, depending on the dentist’s discretion.

After the first visit, we highly recommend re-taking the 4×2 series every six months, and it is absolutely necessary to take it at least once a year. As for the panoramic x-ray, patients need to update this x-ray every 4 years.

What’s a Panoramic X-Ray?
A panoramic x-ray provides the dentist with an image of all the patient’s teeth, the jawbone, and the sinuses. It provides an overall picture that allows the dentist to choose certain areas to focus in on. It’s easy to use and many patients prefer this to traditional full mouth x-rays because there are no uncomfortable sensors involved! There is also less radiation exposure than a full mouth x-ray because it takes the image of the full mouth in one shot. While it allows the dentist to see an overall picture, it isn’t clear enough to be able to detect finer problems such as cavities. Hence it must be supplemented with a 4×2 plus additional shots of areas of concerns.

What’s a 4×2?
A 4×2 series provides four bitewings (x-rays that show the patient’s bite – 2 views on each side) and two periapical shots showing the roots of the nerves of the front teeth (upper and lower). These are crucial in detecting cavities, pathologies, and other abnormalities.

Are X-Rays Safe?
Many people are most concerned with the radiation exposure from taking x-rays. However, x-rays have a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Additionally, precautionary measures are taken to minimize exposure. Before any x-rays are taken, a lead apron with a thyroid collar is placed on the patient. All metal jewelry or glasses are also removed. Our x-rays are digital, which have 50-80% less exposure than conventional x-rays units. Overall, the amount of radiation from a 4×2 series is less than the amount of radiation an average person receives in a regular day from natural sources! So realistically, the costs of taking x-rays are greatly outweighed by the benefits that x-rays provide, such as the early detection and prevention of a severe dental disease.