During your time with us, there will be a point when we must take x-rays of your teeth and mouth. X-rays are used to help our team see beyond the surface, beyond what is visible throughout a standard examination. The frequency of x-rays is determined by a number of things including your age, oral health, presence of oral disease symptoms, and risk for potential diseases. There is minimal radiation exposure associated with x-rays. Even less radiation is required for digital radiography. However, if you are concerned about the radiation at any point, we encourage you to speak with one of our staff before the x-rays are conducted.

What to Expect

Simply put, x-rays operate as a type of energy that passes through soft tissues and is absorbed by denser tissues. Therefore, parts of your mouth such as the teeth and bone will take in the x-rays and the gums and cheeks will let them pass through. X-rays are divided into two main categories, intraoral and extraoral. Intraoral radiographs are taken inside the mouth and extraoral, outside. Usually, x-rays are conducted as a means of diagnosis, but can also serve as a preventative by allowing us to see potential problems in early stages.

Before an x-ray is done, it is important to inform our staff if you are or might be pregnant. In spite of the fact that dental x-rays are only conducted on your mouth area, routine x-rays might be postponed to avoid exposing the baby or fetus to the minor radiation. If it cannot be avoided, a protective lead apron will be placed over your belly to shield it from the x-rays.

You will be covered with a heavy lead apron, which reduces radiation exposure, while you sit upright in a chair. Our staff will also wear their own protective aprons/protective means and have you bite down on a small piece of cardboard or plastic while they take various pictures. In between images, the plastic filled with x-ray film will be moved to different parts of your mouth for numerous pictures. It is important you remain still while x-rays are being taken.

Digital radiography, in particular, utilizes an electronic sensor instead of x-ray film and then stores the image on a computer. With a computer screen, one or our team members may show you the images and discuss their findings. Overall, the x-rays should only take a couple of minutes and should not cause any pain. Don’t hesitate to speak up if you feel any pain or discomfort during your x-ray.

Importance of Digital Radiographs

These high-detailed images can be used to find cavities, examine tooth roots, check bone health around teeth, ascertain whether any existing periodontal disease is a result of poor oral care, inspect the status of developing teeth, and overall monitor good tooth health. Conditions such as hidden dental structures (for example, wisdom teeth), tooth decay, bone damage, impacted teeth, cysts/abscesses/growths, and bone loss can also be determined from these images. For children, x-rays are additionally used to check that their permanent or adult teeth are growing in properly. Lastly, x-rays can help our team plan for further treatments by examining the placement of the teeth or the nasal area, jaw, sinuses, and joints.

Frequency of Dental X-rays

For individuals who are not at high-risk for getting cavities or have no tooth decay, bitewing x-rays should happen every 2-3 years (adults), 1.5-3 years (teens), and 1-2 years (children). For those with tooth decay or high cavity risk, bitewings should be conducted every 6 months to 1.5 years (adults) and 6 -12 months (children and teens).

If you have any questions about digital radiographs or x-rays, contact our Portland office today! We would be happy to schedule your appointment with Dr. Lawlor.