Dec 15, 2018

There you are at your dental checkup in Sarasota and you’ve just been called back from the waiting room. The hygienist tells you that you need to have X-rays taken, but you feel sure that you just had them done! And not only that, but why are X-rays needed in the first place? These are common questions and concerns, and in this blog, you’ll get answers! Keep reading to learn about 3 important ways that X-rays benefit your oral health and how often they need to be done.

Why are x-rays necessary for good oral health?

When a dentist looks inside your mouth, they can easily examine the outside surfaces of your teeth and gums. However, they can’t see in between the teeth, under the gum tissue, or your jaws.

X-rays allow them to see those areas so they can find problems when they’re small and easy to treat. And if a dentist doesn’t look, they can’t find what’s potentially there.

More specifically, here are 3 things dentists are looking for:

  • Cavities – You may think you would know if you had a cavity because it would hurt, but that’s only true in some cases. Usually, cavities don’t cause pain until they’re fairly large and have gotten closer to the nerve in the center of the tooth. This is when most people start feeling pain, but at this stage, more extensive dental work must be done.
  • Gum Health – Your gum tissue covers the jawbone that supports your teeth and keeps them strong and stable. The higher your bone levels are, the more support your teeth have, but the only way to see them is to periodically take an X-ray. This allows a dentist to recommend treatment as soon as possible if you’re losing bone mass due to gum disease, heredity or age.
  • Cysts and Tumors – Cysts and tumors can form deep within the jawbone and around the roots of teeth. This often occurs around wisdom teeth and can cause major problems if not detected. Fortunately, an X-ray will reveal these areas so a dentist can find and treat a cyst or tumor before they become dangerous.

How often do you need x-rays?

When you see a new dentist for the first time, they’ll start with what’s called a full-mouth-series of X-rays. These detailed images of every single tooth allow the doctor to do a thorough initial evaluation. It also provides a baseline against which to compare future X-rays.

Beyond the first appointment, here is a general guideline for how frequently X-rays will be recommended:

  • Every 12 Months: Bitewings are usually taken annually during checkups to allow a dentist to check for cavities in between the back teeth.
  • Every 3-5 Years: Typically a full mouth series is taken every 3-5 years so the dentist can see the root and crown of every single tooth, which the annual bitewings don’t show them. On the years you have a full mouth set, you won’t need bitewings.
  • As Needed: If you’re experiencing pain in a specific area, a PA (periapical X-ray) will be taken to show an up-close image of it. Also, insurance companies require a PA before they’ll cover dental crowns because it’s the only way to make sure there isn’t an infection present around the root of the tooth.

Now that you know how X-rays benefit your oral health and how often they’re needed, you won’t have to wonder why they’re necessary again!

About the author

Dr. Shanaka Weerasooriya is a general, restorative and cosmetic dentist in Sarasota who knows how important early diagnosis is for comprehensive and preventive care. His goal is to find oral health problems as early as possible to minimize the amount of dental work his patients need in the long-term. If you have any questions, he can be contacted via his website or at (941) 256-7559.