Tooth Talk: X-rays gone tech

Q: Doc, every time I go to the dentist they want to take x-rays. I don’t like them and I don’t think they’re necessary. Plus, at my age I am constantly having x-rays at my doctor’s. Pretty soon I’m going to glow in the dark. Why do they always insist on x-rays I don’t need?

A: This is a very common question I get asked all the time. Most of the time it is middle-aged and older patients that express concern about x-rays.

Occasionally, it is the cost but mainly it is a concern about the radiation.

In recent years there has been a shift in the way most dentists practice. The focus has turned toward more preventive procedures as people are living longer, fuller lives.

In addition, the advances in dentistry have enabled us to provide patients with the most modern technology available. Many dentists are embracing this technology.

Gone are the old-fashioned sharp individual film packets that cut up your mouth and make you gag. Replacing these are digital x-rays that can take a picture of your entire mouth with one image or individual images taken quickly, easily and most of all comfortably. This technology puts out an extremely low level of radiation and is very safe.

In fact, the amount of radiation is so low that being in the sun for 10 minutes emits more radiation than this type of x-ray.

That is only one of the pluses in this new shift in dentistry.

Being in southwest Florida means that many people are seasonal and have a dentist in their home state. Digital x-rays improve the channels of communication as they are easily e-mailed back and forth eliminating the need for having them taken in both places.

The other bonus is that since they are digital there is no electricity wasted in processing then, no chemicals used in developing them and no chemicals used in recycling the developer and fixed. So, believe it or not digital x-rays actually help the environment!

Now, let me get to the heart of your question. x-rays are necessary because they enable us to see the big picture and peer behind the scenes. I cannot begin to tell you how many patients I see that have extensive dental problems that don’t understand why.

In more cases than not they haven’t had any x-rays taken, either because they’ve refused, or their dentist didn’t take them. Further, in today’s world it is much more beneficial to treat small problems rather than wait until they become larger and much more involved and much more costly.

So when your dentist or dental hygienist tells you that you need x-rays they are only looking out for your best interest. Plus, they’re good for the environment.

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