What if your NYC dentist had superhuman vision that would allow them to see not just inside your teeth, but also what’s happening in the spaces between them, beneath your gum line and even into your jaw? Thanks to dental X-rays, dentists can get a close look at parts of your teeth and mouth that would otherwise be impossible to see, even with the most sophisticated mouth mirror.
Why do I need dental X-rays? How often should I get them?
Dental X-rays can help your Sky Dental team pinpoint the early stages of tooth decay, even if it’s happening between teeth or beneath existing fillings. X-rays can detect changes in the root canal, abscesses developing in the infected root of a tooth, or even bone loss in the jaw.
If you’re preparing for significant dental work such as implants, crowns, braces, or oral surgery, your dentist may use X-rays alongside other imaging options to get a clear picture of the position and condition of your teeth. And for children whose smiles are still growing, X-ray imaging helps dentists see how teeth are developing, even before they emerge.
All of this information is vital to creating a treatment plan that addresses your unique oral health needs. This is why we recommend all patients have X-rays taken at their first visit.
Your dentist will determine how often you need X-rays. Typically we suggest updating X-rays every 2 years for adults and every 1-2 years for children with no increased risk of tooth decay.
What can I expect when getting X-rays at the dentist?
At our Lower Manhattan office, our team uses digital dental X-rays because they are quick, safe, and easy for our team to access on the computer.
our hygienist will take the X-ray while you are seated in a chair, and they will provide a lead apron for you to wear. This apron protects your internal organs and may also have a collar to protect your thyroid — it’s like a weighted blanket for the dentist office!
Depending on the type of X-ray you’re having, you may hold a small, plastic-covered sensor in your mouth for a few moments. While this may feel a bit awkward, it shouldn’t be painful — tell your hygienist if you’re experiencing significant discomfort.
Here are a few common types of dental X-rays:
- Bitewing X-rays zoom in on the upper and lower teeth in a single area of your mouth, showing the structure of the visible tooth as well as the root and supporting bone. They are excellent at detecting decay hiding out between teeth.
- Periapical X-rays look at a few teeth in either the upper or lower jaw and can help dentists locate issues in the tooth root or adjacent bone.
- Panoramic X-rays show all of your upper and lower teeth in a single image and help assess the position of teeth in the mouth. Typically these X-rays are taken with a camera that revolves around the head while the patient stands still.
During the X-ray, your hygienist will step out of the room for a moment — but they’ll be back before you can count to “one-Mississippi!”
Are dental X-rays safe?
Yes, dental X-rays are safe, and they provide vital information for maintaining good oral health — which is an overall important part of your whole-body health!
If you’re concerned about radiation exposure, there are a few good things to remember. First, we are all exposed to a VERY low level of radiation from man-made and natural sources through daily activities such as going outdoors, drinking water, and watching television. These levels of exposure are NOT believed to be high enough to cause health problems.
By comparison, dental X-rays make up a very tiny fraction of the radiation most Americans get every year. In fact, taking a commercial from Newark to LAX can expose you to as much as 50 times the radiation of a single digital dental X-ray.
So while you maybe shouldn’t go treating your dentist’s X-ray machine like the photo booth at Coney Island, it is safe to get the dental X-rays you need for your treatment plan.
If you are or think you may be pregnant, you should share this information with your dental team before you have an X-ray. The American Dental Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that dental X-rays during pregnancy are safe and that there may be a greater risk in putting off needed dental work. With the right information, we can answer any questions you may have and work together to determine the best treatment plan for you.
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