Why are X-rays So Important?

Many people accept x-rays as a fact of life when it comes to consistent dental visits.  Others question their necessity or fear negative consequences from them.  We covered the safety of dental x-rays in a previous blog that you can read here.  In this blog, we’ll explain why they are so important.

X-rays Enable Early Detection of Cavities

One of the most important functions of dental x-rays is their ability to show cavities in their earliest stages. This allows your dentist to intercept them before they do serious damage to the teeth.  When we catch them early enough, we can actually stop the decay from worsening and needing any treatment at all.

Even if the cavities are at a stage where they require treatment, earlier is always better.  The sooner we catch a cavity, the smaller it is.  The smaller a cavity is, the smaller your filling is.  That means it is less expensive, requires less drilling, and saves more natural tooth structure.  It’s important to understand that these small cavities will not typically cause any symptoms at all.  The only way to detect them is with consistent dental x-rays.

X-rays Help Us Treat Gum Disease

When it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease, dental x-rays play an important role.  Our close-up images called “bitewings” provide a clear picture of the health of the jawbone surrounding the teeth.  When there is tartar buildup below the gums, putting you at risk for periodontal disease, it shows up on an x-ray.  We sometimes even use follow-up x-rays to confirm that we removed all buildup below the gums.

We can monitor the “height” of jawbone around the teeth with x-rays to determine whether a patient is responding to treatment for severe gum disease.  We often call periodontal disease a “silent disease” because it causes little to no symptoms.  It is virtually impossible for patients to know what is going on below their gums.  Dental x-rays show it.

X-rays Show the Configuration of a Tooth’s Roots

The shape, angulation, and even number of a tooth’s roots can vary widely.  When it comes to dental procedures like root canals and extractions, it is essential that your dentist understand the exact configuration of the roots before proceeding with treatment.  In fact, it is malpractice to attempt these procedures without a specific dental x-ray called a “periapical”. To attempt a root canal or extraction without knowledge of the root structure would be foolhardy at best and dangerous to the patient at worst.  We literally cannot do our jobs without these x-rays.

X-rays Confirm the Correct Fit of Dental Work

One of the most important factors in the long-term success of dental work is its ability to “seal” the tooth from leakage or penetration of cavity- and gum disease-causing bacteria.  When it comes to the portion of dental treatment that extends between the teeth, this can be difficult, if not impossible, to see visually.  X-rays show us the fit of crowns and fillings against the natural tooth.  They also show very clearly dental work that does not do its job of sealing the tooth, enabling us to intervene before it develops full-blown cavities or gum disease.

X-rays Show Dental Infections Before You Feel Them

Did you know that some teeth just “die” without ever causing noticeable symptoms?  It is also possible to get a recurrent infection around a tooth with a root canal.  In these cases, you could have a dangerous infection without experiencing pain.  Eventually, these infections would show themselves in a dental abscess or gum swelling of some kind.  In order to catch them before they reach that stage, you need dental x-rays.  As an infection slowly grows around the end of a root, it destroys the surrounding bone, leaving a small black halo that appears on an x-ray.

X-rays Show Cysts and Tumors Before They are Visible

There are many types of benign cysts and tumors that can develop in the hard tissues of the mouth.  While these are typically not life threatening, they can destroy local tissues and require removal.  Just like cavities, the sooner you detect and treat them, the more conservative (smaller) your treatment is.  It is always easier to have a small surgical site removing a small mass than a large one.  Healing is faster, and there is less tissue destruction.

Consistent dental x-rays allow your dentist to closely monitor any suspicious changes in the jawbone and teeth.

More Questions about Dental X-rays?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any x-ray questions you have and explain which specific x-rays are necessary to keep your mouth as healthy as possible.

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