Dental X-rays, or radiographs, are an essential diagnostic tool used to detect hidden abnormalities and decay. But there are different forms of dental imaging—some better and less harmful than others for the patient. 

Below, we discuss the differences between traditional dental X-rays and digital dental X-rays, their safety, and why digital dental radiography is the safer choice.

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What are Dental X-rays Used for?

Dental X-rays help diagnose diseases affecting your teeth and mandible (jaw bone). The images provide essential information to help plan the appropriate dental treatment.

While dental X-rays primarily inform your dentist about the status of your teeth, the images may also reveal the following:

  • Abscesses or cysts
  • Bone loss of the jaw that supports the teeth
  • Cancerous and noncancerous tumors
  • Decay between the teeth
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Poor tooth and root positions
  • Problems inside a tooth or below the gumline
  • Defects of the jaw joint
  • Impacted teeth
  • Congenitally missing teeth
  • Hardened plaque hidden under gums

Without dental X-rays, these issues may worsen, leading to more dental damage that may become harder to treat if not identified early on through preventive X-rays.

…you should at least have a dental X-ray at your biannual dental appointment. 

Are Dental X-rays Safe?

Traditional X-rays use invisible beams of energy—a form of radiation. While the risk from a single dental X-ray image is minimal, some studies show a slight increase in cancer risk, particularly in children, due to the levels of radiation exposure. 

To eliminate most of this radiation risk, dentists will use a leaded apron to cover the patient’s body and, if necessary, a leaded thyroid collar. While your dentist should only allow the lowest amount of radiation possible, there’s always that small risk of radiation exposure when getting a traditional dental X-ray. 

How Often Should You Get Dental X-rays?

Because of the radiation involved with dental imaging, you should only have X-rays when absolutely necessary. While the frequency may vary depending on the patient, you should at least have a dental X-ray at your biannual dental appointment

There are other reasons your dentist may want to take additional X-rays. These include: 

  • Signs of gum disease that may cause bone loss
  • A dislodged tooth that has taken the entire root system along with it
  • Wisdom tooth eruption 
  • Oral cancer screenings
  • A severe cavity that may have affected the bone 

Digital dental X-rays can replace traditional annual X-rays if your holistic dentist provides this service.

Why Digital Dental X-Rays are Better

Digital X-ray technology uses an electronic sensor that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged, making it much faster and easier to detect problems. This also means less time for you in the dentist’s chair and less radiation exposure. Digital dental X-rays can replace traditional annual X-rays if your holistic dentist provides this service.

Digital X-rays reduce radiation exposure by 75-80% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays. Even though digital X-rays produce a very low level of radiation—one-third that of conventional X-rays—there are additional precautions your dentist should take to limit your radiation exposure. These precautions include not taking unnecessary X-rays and always using a lead apron to shield and protect your body and thyroid area.

At Anders Dental, a holistic dentistry provider serving WNC, we exclusively use digital dental X-rays and treat our patients with the highest quality of care. Contact us today to get your dental health back on track!