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Dental X-Rays

How It Feels

X-rays take only a few minutes and are not painful.

Some people may gag on the plastic or cardboard that holds the X-ray film. People often find it easier to relax if they focus on something else (such as an object on the wall) and take slow, deep breaths through their nose during the X-rays.

Risks

The amount of radiation used in dental X-rays is low. But there is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for this test. But the risk of damage from the X-rays is usually very low compared with the potential benefits of the test.

Pregnant women may not want to have routine dental X-rays taken until after they give birth. Although there is no proof that a routine dental X-ray could harm a developing baby (fetus), dentists usually suggest you wait to have your X-rays until after the baby is born. Delaying the X-ray for a few months will not result in further harm to teeth in most cases. There are times when the severity of the dental problem requires an X-ray to deal with an urgent concern.

Results

Dental X-rays are pictures of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues around them to help find problems with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. Your dentist can talk to you about your X-rays right after they are done.

Dental X-rays

Normal:

No tooth decay is seen.

No damage to the bones supporting the teeth is seen.

No dental injuries, such as tooth or jaw fractures, are seen.

No cysts, solid growths (tumors), or abscesses are seen.

No extra or impacted teeth are seen and no teeth are out of their normal place.

Abnormal:

Tooth decay is seen.

Damage to the bones supporting the teeth is seen.

Dental injuries, such as tooth or jaw fractures, are seen.

Cysts, solid growths (tumors), or abscesses are seen.

Abnormally placed, extra, or impacted teeth are seen.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • If you can't stay still or hold the X-ray plastic or cardboard in your teeth.
  • If you have braces, retainers, dentures, bridges, and certain body piercings (ear, tongue, lip, cheek, or nose).

What To Think About

If you are going to a new dentist, have your other dentist send copies of your dental X-rays to your new dentist. You may not need any more X-rays with your new dentist.

Citations

  1. American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs (2006). The use of dental radiographs: Update and recommendations. Journal of the American Dental Association, 137(9): 1304–1312.

Other Works Consulted

  • American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs (2006). The use of dental radiographs: Update and recommendations. Journal of the American Dental Association, 137(9): 1304–1312.

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 13, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Answer:
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You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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