Why Do We Need Dental X-Rays?

Dental x-rays, called radiographs, are the fastest, simplest and most effective way to fully see roots, nerves, ligaments, and the bone that surround the teeth, while minimizing radiation exposure to patients.  This information is used by your dentist to determine bone levels to assess periodontal health, and to identify areas of new decay on the surface of the teeth, between the teeth, or surrounding existing fillings.  Radiographs are also useful to investigate and visualize infection or abscesses surrounding the teeth, and other rare things such as impacted teeth, root tips, tumours, fractures and growth abnormalities with respect to the position of adult teeth beneath baby teeth.

The use of any type of radiation is a concern, and is never taken lightly.  It is important to remember that dental X-rays are much lower in radiation than that found in some other medical diagnostic tools such as CT scans or chest x-rays.  Whenever a radiograph is needed, there are many precautionary steps are taken to protect the patient from exposure to radiation.  These include the use of lead aprons to shield patients from scatter, and taking the minimum number of radiographs while still being able to use them for diagnosis.  The machinery used for radiographs at North Burnaby Dental Group is top of the line.  Your North Burnaby Dentist uses a digital sensor, which is much more sensitive than the films that you may recall from your childhood.  The digital sensor allows for far less exposure to radiation with each radiograph.  North Burnaby Dental also has new x-ray units which are extremely focused and well shielded, which further reduces scatter exposure to the patient.  All of the equipment at North Burnaby Dental Group is inspected according to the BC College of Dental Surgeons Guidelines, and is kept in top working condition.  The Canadian Dental Association recommends that all dentists use the ALARA principle when prescribing radiographs, which stands for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable”.  The dentists at North Burnaby Dental Group abide by this principle, and always strive to use the fewest number of radiographs for diagnosis, while maintaining the highest clinical standard of care.

The use of dental radiographs is an important tool for your dentist to be able to catch potential problems in the teeth and surrounding tissues before they become big problems.  For most patients yearly bitewing radiographs are an important part of preventive maintenance of the teeth and periodontium, while minimizing the risk as much as possible.  For children, radiographs are a very important way to monitor normal development and prevent the need for large restorations or problems.  Things change very quickly in a child’s mouth, and early diagnosis is crucial for preventing infection, pain and even orthodontic problems.  Just as with all other aspects of health, prevention and early detection is key.  The best way to avoid having to submit to frequent radiographs is to exercise a good dental routine.  Regular brushing and flossing and good oral hygiene are important ways to minimize problems and the need for additional diagnostic emergency radiographs.

At your next appointment, don’t hesitate to discuss the use of dental radiographs, or ask questions.  The dentists at North Burnaby Dental Group will be happy to discuss any concerns you may have.

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