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To Take X-Rays or Not Take X-Rays?! – That is the Question

Get an X-ray at a dentist

The short answer: To take x-rays!  

The long Answer: To take x-rays, and it’s important too understand why. Below is a look at the different types of dental x-rays and why they are critical to your oral health

Digital dental x-rays, the choice of our offices and the popular choice among dentists today, use a very small amount of radiation to capture an image of your teeth.  These images (radiographs) are the ONLY way a dentist can diagnose certain problems, including: cavities between the teeth, bone infections, types of benign and malignant tumors, bone loss and impacted teeth.  Without them, your provider is limited in the care he/she can provide, and may miss catching a problem early enough for it to be treated successfully.

There are many types of x-rays, each with a different purpose and recommended frequency.  The recommendations for x-rays differ for each person, but generally, the ones we like to have for our patients are:


    • Panoramic x-ray: This image is great for assessing the general health of all the hard tissues, detecting any bone disease and evaluating the eruption patterns of the teeth.  We like to update this x-ray every 5 years.


  • bitewing-dental-x-rayBitewing x-rays: These are cavity detection x-rays that allow the doctors to see in between your back teeth, one of the most common spots for cavities to develop.  We like to take a set of these every year.  Generally, a set is comprised of two quick images on each side of your mouth.



  • Periapical-dental-x-rayPeriapical x-ray: Sometimes, the doctor needs a focused image of a single or few teeth, whether because they see something suspicious or because the patient is experiencing discomfort.  This single shot gives them a clear view of the tooth from root to tip.

Here are the top 3 reasons why some people are opposed to x-rays:

I don’t have time!  
Taking digital x-rays are now faster and easier than ever! There is no development time and the images pop up within seconds on the compute, making them a quick and invaluable part of your examination.

They are too uncomfortable!  
A lot of this fear stems from memories of the extremely uncomfortable old x-ray films.  New technology means no more uncomfortable film, smaller sensors and faster image capture.

I don’t want all that radiation!   
This is by far the most frequent complaint we hear, and the biggest myth in need of dispelling.  Especially given the advent of digital x-rays, radiation exposure involved these days is minimal.  The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) estimates that the average person is exposed to roughly 3.6 millisieverts (mSv) per year, of which dental x-rays account for approximately 0.2 percent.  The American Dental Association estimates that a full mouth x-ray is about 0.150 mSv.  To put that in context, the NCRP pegs the occupational radiation exposure limit at 50 mSv per year, or around 333 times what you’d get from a set of yearly x-rays.  That is about the equivalent of the exposure from a cross country flight, and a completely worthwhile cost to ensure your oral health.

Hopefully this helps to show that avoiding x-rays, unless pregnant or under a doctor’s instruction, is quite unnecessary.  Find a dentist you trust, and then trust them!  They will tell you what they need in order to take the best care of your oral and general health.

Reserve your child’s appointment online today and receive 50% off all New Patient Kids and Youth exams, including all necessary x-rays, before August 31st at participating locations only. 

Dawson Dental Centres are knowledgeable and caring, with 17 locations across Ontario including Downtown Toronto, Cambridge, Aurora and more. We offer General & Cosmetic Dentistry services such as dental implantsInvisalign invisible braces and dental veneers. New patients are warmly welcome!