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Why Dentists Take X-Rays

Posted on February 26th, 2016 by Dr. Nikoo Daftary

Often when you go to the dentist, you will get an X-ray taken of your mouth. There are a lot of questions by patients about X-rays.  A lot of people don’t know what the reasons for X-rays are or have doubts about their safety. So what are X-rays, why do dentists even use them, and are they actually safe? Let’s set the record straight and talk about why we take X-rays.

What is an X-ray and what good are they?

X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation used in imaging to see inside the body. The term “x-rays” often refers to the images produced by exposing certain body parts to this type of radiation for a short time. X-rays are an especially important tool to helping dentists see the whole picture concerning your dental health. Much of your teeth are not visible by the naked eye, as they are underneath your gums. X-rays allow dentists to see the whole tooth without being invasive. X-rays reveal a lot about a person’s smile including decay, bone loss, and infections. It is also the only way to allow dentists to see what is going on beneath fillings.

When do I need to get X-rays?

This depends on every individual patient. Some patients just need an initial X-ray and may not need another until something goes wrong. Others, who may have pre-existing conditions, may need to get an X-ray as frequently as every six months to track development. Usually an X-ray is taken during the first visit to be able to compare changes over time and before any sort of procedure in preparation.

Are X-rays safe?

Radiation is a buzzword that people like to throw around. More than anything, it is a scare tactic. Although certain types of radiation, including X-rays, can affect DNA and cause damage to cells, the amount of radiation used in X-ray imaging is not enough to be harmful. Dental X-rays specifically have just a fraction of the radiation that other forms of X-ray imaging emit—which also have safe levels of radiation. We are constantly exposed to radiation, and X-rays used in dental imaging are not so much different from that radiation. They strong enough to do any real harm.
As you can see, X-rays are a helpful and safe tool used by dental professionals to take images of the inside of your mouth. They help address problems and help dentists prepare for procedures. You do not feel X-rays and they are not powerful enough to hurt you. Should you have any related questions or concerns, feel free to ask your dental health professional!

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