A: X-rays (dental radiographs) are used by dentists to properly diagnose various dental conditions that cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are used periodically during regular check-up visits to screen for tooth decay, but they can also be used during certain procedures to evaluate the dimensions of the area being treated. Patients may be concerned that the exposure to radiation might be harmful. Fortunately, there are many ways dental offices control X-ray radiation. Main protocol is they are only taken if the dentist feels it’s necessary.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have developed guidelines for X-rays for dental patients. However it is ultimately up to dentists to use his or her own judgment to find the right protocol for the individual patient. The established guidelines are based on several factors, including patient age, history of disease, level of disease, health of teeth, presence of medical devices such as implants, concerns for growth and development of the jaws and teeth and availability of recent X-ray images.
Most modern dental practices have made the conversion to digital X-rays instead of the traditional film based system over the past decade. This change alone has had a large impact on the amount of radiation a patient is exposed to. Digital X-rays use up to 50-90 percent less radiation than film X-rays. While conventional dental X-rays are relatively safe, digital radiography is an excellent option for those who take X-rays on a regular basis.
Information provided by Dr. Rob Swanson, Swanson Dental, 2423 Willis Ave., Perry, (515) 465-5170.