Side profile illustration of a woman getting a dental X-ray image

Are Dental X-Rays Necessary?

March 31, 2023 8:00 am

During a routine checkup, your dentist will assess the health of your teeth and gums visually, as well as physically by poking and prodding with special tools. You will usually get dental X-rays, or radiographs, about once a year so your dental team can see what’s going on beneath your teeth’s surface, between your teeth, in your jawbone, and in your sinuses. These black and white images of internal dental-related structures allow your dentist to have a more comprehensive understanding of your oral health.

What Do Dental X-Rays Show?

Dental X-rays are a beneficial part of preventive care because they show cavities, cysts, infection, some tumors, bone loss, the position of teeth that haven’t yet erupted, and more. They aid your dentist in reaching accurate diagnoses and planning appropriate treatment.

There are several types of dental X-rays that show different angles of your mouth. For example, bitewing X-rays show the upper and lower teeth in one part of your mouth. You’ll usually get several of these taken to capture the different sections of your mouth. A periapical X-ray shows a tooth from its root to its crown. Panoramic X-rays are pictures of your whole mouth, including your jawbone.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

X-ray imaging involves radiation, which is energy that comes from a source and travels somewhere else. X-ray radiation is high-energy, which means it has the potential to damage DNA in cells when it penetrates the body. Cancer occurs when damaged or abnormal cells in the body divide and multiply, taking valuable nutrients from healthy cells.

The radiation exposure from a full set of X-rays is small compared to the radiation a person is exposed to in their daily life from sources like electronics, the sun, and the earth. Because a person gets X-rays taken so infrequently, their diagnostic benefits outweigh the minimal risk of cell damage, even for children. Additionally, your dental team takes certain precautions when taking X-ray images of your mouth.

To minimize radiation exposure, we use advanced digital technology and have patients wear a leaded apron over their body. While X-rays are generally considered safe, we only take them if absolutely necessary for pregnant women. And know that you can refuse dental X-rays at any time.

How Often Are Dental X-Rays Taken?

Typically, patients only need imaging about once a year. If you have an ongoing dental problem, we might take X-rays every six months at your regular appointments. For new patients, we like to take a complete set of X-rays to assess the health of your smile, especially if you don’t have a recent record of images from your last dental office.

Are Dental X-Rays Expensive?

Because X-rays are preventive, most dental insurance providers pay for them at least once a year. For patients without dental insurance, consider enrolling in our in-house dental membership. This alternative to dental insurance covers routine X-rays, cleanings, and exams, and unlocks savings on other services.

Preventive Dental Care in Petaluma, CA

If you have questions about our comprehensive dental services or if you still have concerns about the safety of X-rays, please contact us today! We would be happy to hear from you.

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Dental X-ray image from Authority Dental under CC 2.0

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