So many patients ask us how often x-rays should be taken of their teeth. Our dental office tends to be very conservative, and we recommend taking check-up x-rays once a year and a full series once every five years. Our x-ray units are digital and state-of-the-art, and our computers process the images, magnify and enhance them instantaneously. The images, because they are digital, require less radiation, are safe, and have extremely fast exposures. It is estimated that an average individual, walking around in the sun and with normal activities is exposed to 360mRom per year of radiation, whereas check up x-rays only account for 0.3mRom of exposure. The exposure is minimal in comparison to the benefits our patients receive.
I am always amazed at how fast some patients can develop new tooth decay, if we have not seen them in quite some time in our dental office. Breath mints, candies, chocolate and many sweet foods can cause a rapid onset of decay that a dentist could possibly not see if it is between the teeth. Many times, digital images show us decay that is just starting between the teeth and with daily flossing and improved eating habits, the decay will not progress. Patients can also develop a dry mouth and notice they have less saliva, which leaves the teeth more susceptible to decay. X-rays are imperative in the diagnosis of decay, abscesses, and bone loss around teeth at an early stage. We also can diagnose anomalies, which can develop in the jaws, at their inception and can track the eruption of wisdom teeth.
Dentistry can be minimal with early detection of work that is needed. Waiting on x-rays usually isn’t worth the risk that is taken. This week in our dental office we had a patient that we had not seen for two years. The digital images we took of his teeth surprised us all, the dentistry that was needed to restore several teeth was extensive and would have been a lot less if we saw him on a regular basis. The old adage “a stitch in time saves nine” certainly applies here in the dental office.