Has Your General Dentist Prescribed a Dental X-Ray? Here Is What You Need to Know

Your oral health is just as important as the rest of your physical health since dental issues can adversely affect your quality of life. From tooth loss that would increase the likelihood of loss of bone density in the jawbone to tooth abscesses that increase the threat of bacteria travelling to other parts of your body, it is never advisable to take your oral health for granted. So when you visit your general dentist, you expect them to carry out a visual exam of your mouth to determine the source of your pain and, consequently, prescribe a course of treatment.

While this is the typical procedure, there are some scenarios where your dental professional will instruct you to get dental x-rays performed so that they can determine the best way forward. If this is the first time a dentist has recommended this diagnostic tool, you could be wondering why and what you should expect. To help answer some of your questions, here are a few things you should know when your general dentist prescribes a dental x-ray.

What can dental x-rays diagnose that a visual inspection cannot?

The first thing that you should know about dental x-rays is that they give the general dentist a comprehensive view of what is going on in your mouth. Thus, while visually examining your teeth gives them access to the exterior structure of the tooth and the inner soft tissue in your mouth, this is the extent of what the dentist can visualise. A dental x-ray, on the other hand, will expose the internal structure of the tooth, such as the pulp and the root.

Moreover, x-rays will reveal hard-to-access parts of your mouth such as between teeth, the back of the mouth where the wisdom teeth are located and more. With that in mind, dental x-rays are an invaluable diagnostic tool since they can help with the early detection of issues such as:

  • Progressive bone loss
  • Tooth decay below fillings
  • The presence of tumours, cysts, abscesses and other abnormalities
  • Inherent positioning of teeth below the gum line to detect the potential for impaction

Is everyone eligible for dental x-rays?

While dental x-rays, like all other types of x-rays, do emit a degree of radiation, the amount that the patient is exposed to is negligible, so you do not have to worry about long-term effects. Nevertheless, there are some safety precautions in place to ensure that individuals with underlying medical conditions are not put at undue risk.

For example, if you are undergoing chemotherapy, it is inadvisable to get an x-ray. Expectant mothers are also not viable candidates for this diagnostic measure, as your general dentist will prioritise the protection of the unborn child. Overall, you must discuss pre-existing conditions with your general dentist so they can determine if you will be eligible for a dental x-ray.