Dental Tips |3 min read

Do I need Dental X-Rays? Maybe. Maybe NOT!

The Safety of Dental X-rays - Radiation Doses in mSv

Are dental x-rays really necessary?  Are dental x-rays dangerous? Should I get dental x-rays if I am pregnant? How often should I get dental x-rays?

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about the safety and necessity of dental x-rays, also known as radiographs.  At Southpark Art Dentistry we do not take exposing our patients to radiation lightly. We always implement cautious judgement in ordering x-rays and will use all safety precautions available.

Our digital x-ray equipment is exceptionally well maintained by all North Carolina Department of Health Services Radiation standards. Our dental team is appropriately trained in operating this equipment and we still use protective lead aprons and thyroid collars to limit your exposure even further. Additionally, digital sensors and plates have protective plastic barriers that are changed for every patient to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination and infection.

Why are Dental X-Rays Performed?

Although Dr Elizabeth Smith will do a thorough clinical dental exam, there are many things that x-rays show us which are not visible with the naked eye. Without dental x-rays we are unable to diagnose tooth decay, gum disease, bone loss, malignancies or cysts in your jaw bone, abscessed teeth, cracked roots, or failing dental work. By the time those conditions are visible without x-rays, these issues are usually way worse and even more expensive to treat than they would have been had they been diagnosed earlier.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Yes! The digital x-rays used today do not use nearly as much radiation as what traditional radiographs did a couple of decades ago. A FULL mouth series of dental X-rays is less radiation than the exposure from a trans-continental flight across the United States. In fact, a SINGLE tooth X-ray is exactly double the radiation that you get from eating a banana!

How Frequently Will I Need Dental X-Rays?

The exact frequency of your dental x-rays will depend on your age, dental health, and your medical history. For example, if we think your cavity risk is higher or suspect an infection, then we may recommend that you have digital x-rays more frequently.

Can you Take Dental X-Rays While Pregnant?

It is safe for pregnant women to have digital x-rays while pregnant, although whenever possible we will delay taking x-rays until the baby is born. However, in the case of a dental emergency we will use an abundance of caution and double lead apron the patient to minimize radiation exposure. Pregnant women with a toothache or dental infection should NOT delay dental care for the fear of x-ray radiation as it can be completely safe as long as standard protocols are followed.

What Are the Different Types of Digital Dental X-Rays?

Not all dental X-rays are created equal. The type of image that Dr. Smith orders will depend on what we are examining. Here are the most common:

  • Bitewing x-rays show the detail of the upper and lower teeth in one area of the mouth. Each x-ray will show the tooth from the crown to just below the level of supporting bone. They are used mainly to detect decay between teeth, changes in the bone density caused by gum disease, and the proper fitting of a crown.
  • Periapical x-rays show the entire tooth from the crown to below the root. They are used to detect an abscess, fractured roots, and proper placement of a root canal.
  • Panoramic x-rays show the entire upper and lower jaws, the sinus and the temporomandibular joint. They are often used to reveal impacted wisdom teeth in young adults. These are not typically taken as frequently but critical as they can alert us to malignancies or cysts.

Click here to contact us to schedule your appointment to learn about dental x-rays and more!  We look forward to seeing you soon.


Other sources to learn more:

American Dental Association




Southpark Art Dentistry - 2700 Coltsgate Road, Suite 100 Charlotte NC (704)362-4646

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