Benefits and Safety of Dental Radiographs

Jun 1, 2024

Q: What are dental x-rays and why are they used?

X-ray images allow the dentist to find tooth decay when it is in an early stage. When left without treatment tooth decay progresses and can lead to larger problems. From x-ray images we can also see the amount of bone loss from gum disease; see fractures in teeth and bone; and see shape of tooth roots. We can also checke the condition of old crowns, root canal treatments, and fillings. Many of these things cannot be seen by looking in the mouth.

Q: How often dental X-rays should be taken?

According to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA), the frequency of taking X-rays depends on your oral health, age, disease risk. Also, signs and symptoms of oral disease will guide the use of x-rays.

Children may require X-rays more often than adults (every 6 – 18 mo.) This is because their teeth and jaws are still developing. Also, their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults.

For adults, the risk factors indicating an increased frequency of x-rays include gum recession; many fillings and crowns; high sugar intake; poor oral hygiene; and high decay rate. Depending on these many factors, adults will need x-ray films every 6mo – 3 years.

Q: Are dental x-rays safe?

Dental x-rays require very low levels of radiation exposure, which makes the risk of potentially harmful effects very small. To block x-rays from reaching your neck and chest, we use protective aprons and thyroid collars on all patients.

If you are not sure why certain x-rays are being taken, talk to your dentist.

Q: Why does the dentist have a waiver form if I choose not to have x-ray films taken?

The form is a reminder to you that diagnosing dental disease requires visual examination, tactile examination, and often radiographic examination. X-ray films allow the dentist to diagnose some dental disease much earlier in the process and more accurately. By signing the form, you are acknowledging that the dentist will not have all of the tools available to evaluate your dental condition.

More Information: – for extensive information about dental x-ray films. (American Dental Association 2012) (CDA 2012)