Why Does the Dentist Take X-Rays?

We know that many of you may never have even had this thought.  You just accept it as a fact of life that when you go to the dentist, you will have x-rays.  Now that we’ve asked the question, you may be wondering what the answer is.  So here you go!

What Do X-Rays Show?

X-rays provide invaluable information about the teeth and bone surrounding the teeth.  Basically, x-rays are an early detection tool for dental diseases.  They show problems that are not visible to the naked eye.

If you wait long enough, allowing cavities and/or gum disease to progress to a severe state, your dentist will be able to see it with a quick look.  However, by the time cavities and gum disease are visible to the naked eye, they have reached a severe level, requiring expensive and invasive treatment to repair.  With consistent dental x-rays, your dentist can catch problems in their earliest stages when they require the most minimal intervention.

X-rays also show abnormalities in the jaws and teeth.  This includes cysts, tumors and dental malformations.  The large x-ray that wraps around your head (called a panoramic) is an important screening tool that you should have at least once every five years.

Dentists who treat children also use x-rays to help evaluate a child’s growth and development patterns.  This is important in orthodontics, jaw function, and airway problems.

What Happens if You Don’t Have X-Rays?

Without dental x-rays, your dentist cannot tell you with any assurance that your mouth is healthy.  It is possible that you could be developing signs of decay or gum disease that, with early intervention, are easily reversed.  Without the early detection of x-rays, though, you miss out on the opportunity to take preventive action.

A good analogy is comparing dental x-rays to a mammogram.  It is important for women to have yearly mammograms to detect any early signs of breast cancer rather than waiting until they detect an abnormal lump.  In the same way, it is important for people to see a dentist for regular x-rays rather than waiting until they notice a change in their teeth or gums.

How Often Should You Have X-Rays?

Great question!  The answer actually differs for every person.  Some patients with an extremely low risk for cavities and gum disease with a history of excellent dental health and consistent dental evaluations can have their x-rays at an interval of 18 months to two years.

The average dental patient should have screening x-rays performed at least once a year.  Ask Dr. Chowning what your risk level is and whether you would be able to go to a less frequent schedule of x-rays.  Some people actually should have x-rays more frequently due to a high risk for cavities or progressive gum disease.  At Timberlake Dental, we treat each patient as the unique individual that he or she is, and that means there is no single answer to this question.

Are They Safe?


There has been some misinformation in social media and from non-dental “professionals” that dental x-rays are harmful.  In fact, they are the lowest dosage of radiation of any type of x-ray you could have.  See our previous blog here about the safety of dental x-rays and details about the amount of radiation they contain.

More Questions about Dental X-Rays?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any question you have about the need for dental x-rays.  He will also assess your current risk levels and advise you of an x-ray protocol that is right for you.

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