Radiography is one of the most valuable and powerful diagnostic tools available to dental practitioners. X-rays are a standard diagnostic procedure, and you may be asked to get dental X-rays taken during some visits to the dentist’s office to help your dentist detect potential problems and identify any changes in the health of your teeth and gums.
The decision to proceed with any prescribed treatment is always up to the patient. A patient can decline a diagnostic test, dental care, or even dental x-rays, just like in medical treatments! So, yes. You can decline to get dental x-rays.
However, your dentist or dental hygienist cannot treat you based on a partial diagnosis without running the danger of being held liable for failing to recognize or address pre-existing diseases. No patient has the right to authorize a practitioner’s willful negligence. Your dentist or dental hygienist can therefore decline to continue non-life-threatening dental therapy, just as you are free to decline the treatment.
You should talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about your concerns regarding dental x-rays if you have any. Although the requirement for dental x-rays might not change, they might be performed differently or in fewer instances.
There are two key types of dental X-rays that your dentist may recommend for proper diagnosis of an oral infection
- Intraoral X-rays – these are the most commonly taken dental X-rays because they provide plenty of details, allowing the dentist to spot cavities, establish the health of the tooth root and surrounding gums and bone, evaluate the status of developing teeth, evaluate the extent of an infection that has spread, and examine the general state of your teeth and jawbone.
- Extraoral X-rays – they are mostly used to develop images of the jaw and skull, though they can also be used with teeth. Unlike intraoral X-rays, they don’t provide much detail. So, instead of being used to check for cavities or problems with individual teeth, extraoral X-rays are mostly used to monitor development of the jaw and teeth, check for impacted teeth, and to identify possible issues between teeth and jaws and the TMS – temporomandibular joint. Some of the commonly used types of extraoral X-rays include panoramic X-rays, tomograms, sialography, cephometric projections, and computed tomography (CT scanning).
Types of intraoral X-rays
There are a number of techniques that your dentist can use for intraoral X-rays, including:
- Bite-wing X-rays – they provide details of the upper and lower teeth in a specific area of your mouth, showing each tooth from the crown to the level of the supporting bone. They are mostly used to evaluate decay and changes in bone density resulting from periodontal disease, as well as to establish the proper fit of a crown restoration and the integrity of fillings
- Occlusal X-rays – they’re quite large, and show full tooth placement and development in either the upper or lower jaw
- Periapical X-rays – they show the entire length of the tooth, from the crown to its connection in the jaw. This full tooth dimension includes all the teeth in one area of the upper or lower jaw, which makes them ideal for the identification of abnormalities of the root and surrounding bone.
Do dental X rays show cancer?
Yes. The American Cancer Society (ACS) claims that pre-cancers and oral cancers can be detected in their early stages during routine oral screenings by your dentist or other dental professional. Dental x-rays can also reveal oral cancer and other dental problems such as cysts in the jaw bones or periodontitis (advanced gum disease.
Dental X rays: how often can you have them?
As with any form of radiation exposure, there is some risk of developing cancer with too many dental X-rays. So, it is the responsibility of your dentist to check your history and decide how frequently you can get X-rays by evaluating factors like your oral health, age, and risk for developing dental issues in the future. That said, the American Dental Association recommends that people at high risk of recurring decay and other oral complications get an X-ray taken every 12 to 24 months. People who have had dental procedures such as fillings, crowns, or implants can get it done at 12 to 18 month intervals.