Yearly x-ray imaging (radiographs) can be a polarizing topic in the dental office, with many people not understanding the importance of updated imaging. The need for radiographs is in part, based on your risk for developing decay, habits, previous history of decay and many other factors. It is our job as clinicians to tailor the need for radiographs to each patient. That being said, a majority of individuals are at a moderate-high risk for developing decay, which is why yearly radiographs are recommended.
Your x-rays provide Dr. Crane with pertinent information that cannot be obtained with a simple visual examination. Many times cavities that appear in the visual exam can only be seen on certain surfaces or teeth, or when they’ve already increased in size. Our goal is always to catch decay as soon as possible. By treating decay in the the earliest of stages we prevent further loss of tooth structure (weakening the tooth) as well as avoiding more costly and invasive treatment. Most people would rather have a simple filling to treat early decay than a root canal and crown (or losing the tooth) because the decay has progressed. Depending on your personal risk factors for decay, cavities can sometimes progress very rapidly, this can change drastically within 12 months.
Radiographs allow us to see the three layers of a tooth’s structure (enamel, dentin, and pulp chamber) to determine how advanced a cavity has become. They also allow us to look between the teeth, an area that cannot be seen in the oral examination. When a cavity is still in the enamel layer, it will progress more slowly. When it surpasses the enamel and reaches the dentin layer of the tooth, it will progress more rapidly. The accelerated advancement at this stage is due to the softer structure of the dentin. Even if a cavity does not infect the pulp chamber (the inner portion of the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels), a cavity in close proximity, is sometimes enough irritation for the nerve of the tooth to become inflamed, causing irreversible pulpitis, usually resulting in a root canal.
Allowing your clinician to perform the radiographs they deem appropriate can often save you time, money and most importantly pain by finding cavities while they are less advanced. As always If you have concerns, please do not hesitate to discuss them with your hygienist. It is never our goal to expose anyone to unnecessary radiation. In fact, all of our x-ray machines are completely digital (drastically decreasing radiation exposure) and lead aprons are available to anyone. We will discuss your particular risk factors and our recommendations for radiographs. Dental Care of Sumner strives to provide the best care for our patients. Your dental health is our first priority!