WHY DENTAL XRAYS ARE NEEDED?
They are used to show dentists the surfaces between the teeth. No matter how good your dentist’s eyes are, it is virtually impossible to see all surfaces without taking radiographs. They are taken to get a complete view of all aspects of both teeth and gums.
There are 3 main types of x-rays that are typically taken:
Bitewings– These are the ones that are most often taken, which show between the teeth. Dentists use these to detect cavities between teeth, or to see fillings or crown margins.
Periapicals– These are used to see the roots of the teeth, to detect infections or help to determine the severity of any gum disease present.
Panoramic Xrays or Panorex– These are not taken every visit, but show your entire jaw, sinuses, and TMJ. This x-ray is taken even when no teeth are present in the mouth to check for pathology.
Due to modern advances, the amount of radiation that one receives from even a full mouth set of dental radiographs is very minimal. Comparable to the amount of radiation that you’d receive walking around on the street all day, and much less than you’d receive from say a CT scan or chest x-ray in a medical office.
SO HOW OFTEN SHOULD I HAVE THEM TAKEN?
General guidelines are once per year for bitewings. At the initial visit, the dentist may take either a full mouth set of films, or some take a panorex and some additional films.
Also a full mouth series is a combination of bitewings and periapicals. This should be completed every 3-5 years.
Even if you have never had a cavity in your life, it is wise to have films taken at regular intervals because of all the other items that can show up (i.e, PATHOLOGY, PERIODONTAL DISEASE, and INFECTIONS).