When to Get Dental X-Rays
How Often Should Teeth Be X-Rayed? continued...
People who fall into the high risk category who may need X-rays taken more frequently include:
- Children. Children generally need more X-rays than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are smaller. As a result, decay can reach the inner part of the tooth, dentin, quicker and spread faster.
- Adults with extensive restorative work, such as fillings to look for decay beneath existing fillings or in new locations.
- People who drink a lot of sugary beverages to look for tooth decay (since the sugary environment creates a perfect situation for cavities to develop).
- People with periodontal (gum) disease to monitor bone loss.
- People who have dry mouth -- called xerostomia -- whether due to medications (such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, and others) or disease states (such as Sjögren's syndrome, damaged salivary glands, radiation treatment to head and neck). Dry mouth conditions can lead to the development of cavities.
- Smokers to monitor bone loss resulting from periodontal disease (smokers are at increased risk of periodontal disease).
How Safe Are Dental X-Rays?
Exposure to all sources of radiation -- including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays -- can damage the body's tissues and cells and can lead to the development of cancer in some instances. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of dental X-rays is extremely small, especially if your dentist is using digital X-rays.
Advances in dentistry over the years have lead to a number of measures that will minimize the risks associated with X-rays. However, even with the advancements in safety, the effects of radiation are added together over a lifetime. So every little bit of radiation you receive from all sources counts.
If you are concerned about radiation exposure due to X-rays, talk to your dentist about how often X-rays are needed and why they are being taken. While some people need X-rays taken more frequently, current guidelines require that X-rays be given only when needed for clinical diagnosis.