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When you visit a new dentist for the first time, one of the first things they will do is take x-rays. You’ll also need to get new dental x-rays periodically as your teeth evolve. At Mill Dam Dental Care, we use state-of-the-art digital dental x-rays for all of our patients. But why are x-rays such an important part of visiting the dentist? In this article, we’ll take a look at how and why dental x-rays work.

What Are Dental X-Rays?

If you’ve broken a bone before, chances are you’ve had an x-ray on that part of your body. Dental x-rays work very similarly because your teeth are part of your skeleton. The x-ray allows your dentist to see your teeth and jaw on a skeletal level, which often reveals dental problems that wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye. Traditional x-rays are called radiographs. They work by emitting a very small amount of radiation, which is then captured by a special camera to create images of your internal organs. There are many different types of dental x-rays – some x-rays focus on just one section of your mouth, while others capture the entire mouth. Many different types of x-rays can be useful for diagnostic purposes.

Digital X-Rays vs. Traditional X-Rays

At Mill Dam Dental Care, we use a digital x-ray system for all of our patients. Traditional x-rays are very safe to use, but they still produce some amount of radiation that we want to minimize. Modern digital x-ray systems still emit a very small amount of radiation, but they are much safer than traditional x-rays. In fact, digital x-rays emit up to 80 percent less radiation than traditional x-rays.

Additionally, we find that digital x-rays are much easier to process, and they also provide better quality images. Digital x-rays are extremely clear and detailed, which makes it much easier for us to catch oral health issues early and provide appropriate treatment. After we’ve taken the x-rays, we can store them securely on our computers and revisit them whenever we need to. This is much more efficient than working with traditional x-ray machines, because there aren’t any physical pieces of film that we need to process.

Why Are Dental X-Rays Necessary?

X-rays are necessary for every dental patient we see, regardless of their age or health status. There are many dental issues that aren’t visible to the naked eye, so dental x-rays give us a deeper look at your teeth and jaw. We use dental x-rays as a diagnostic tool to catch oral health issues as early as possible.

Because digital dental x-rays are so detailed, we can catch everything from cavities to cysts to bone loss. If you are struggling with tooth or jaw pain, x-rays can help identify what’s causing the problem so we can better address it. Additionally, x-rays also help us track movement in the teeth and jaw over time. This helps us determine when teeth will need to be removed or when orthodontic care may be necessary to align your teeth.

When Should I Get Dental X-Rays?

Your dentist will let you know when you need to get x-rays done. Children and teenagers will need x-rays done frequently as their mouths change very quickly, but adults don’t need x-rays nearly as frequently. Younger patients may need x-rays as often as twice per year, while adults with relatively healthy mouths may only need x-rays every two or three years. 

If you are diagnosed with a severe oral health condition like gum disease or oral cysts, you are likely going to need x-rays much more often than someone with a healthy mouth. These repeat x-rays help us track the progress of your condition and make sure that it does not get worse. You also may need to get new x-rays if you switch dental providers and cannot have x-rays sent over from your previous dentist. We almost always take x-rays with new patients regardless of when they have had them done previously just to make sure that we have a full and detailed picture of your mouth.

What to Expect From a Dental X-Ray

If you’ve never had dental x-rays before, you might find yourself wondering what to expect and how and why dental x-rays work. The process is usually very quick and easy, and your dental hygienist will guide you through each step. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask before the x-ray process starts. Your dental team will want you to feel as comfortable as possible during your x-rays.

Before any x-rays are taken, your technician will provide you with a thick apron to wear over your torso. This apron protects your chest from the radiation coming from the x-ray machine. Next, you will need to bite down on a small plastic tray that contains either digital sensors or film, depending on the type of x-ray your dentist is using. Your technician will adjust the tray in your mouth as needed to get the best possible angle. Then, they will position the x-ray appropriately and take the pictures.

You will then repeat this process until the dentist has captured all of the necessary x-rays for your care. Your x-ray technician will continue to direct you as you take x-rays from varying angles. The entire process typically takes less than 10 minutes. While inserting the trays may be mildly uncomfortable for some patients, you shouldn’t feel any pain during the process.

Overall, dental x-rays are a very important part of your oral health and shouldn’t be neglected. Dental x-rays help us diagnose dental problems early on so that we can provide you with the care you need. Mill Dam Dental Care offers a wide range of dental care services to our patients throughout Virginia Beach. We specialize in sedation dentistry services and take extra care to make sure all of our patients are as comfortable as possible. If you’d like to schedule a dental appointment and get more information on how and why dental x-rays work, give us a call today to get started.