Should dental radiographs be taken?

Should Dental Radiographs Be Taken?

Dental radiographs, commonly known as dental X-rays, are an essential component of any dental care treatment plan. They are diagnostic, but they can also be preventative, by helping a dentist diagnose potential oral care issues in a patient's mouth before they become a major problem. Dental X-rays are pictures of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues around them to help find problems with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. X-ray pictures can show cavities, hidden dental structures (such as wisdom teeth), and bone loss that cannot be seen during a visual examination.

Reasons for Taking Dental Radiographs

  • Detection of Decay: Radiographs allow dentists to see between teeth and under the gumline, areas not visible during a standard exam.
  • Identification of Bone Loss: X-rays can reveal bone loss associated with gum disease or a potential indication of osteoporosis.
  • Examination of Dental Roots: Detailed images of the root structures and surrounding bone can help in diagnosing root decay and other issues.
  • Assessment for Dental Procedures: Essential for planning dental implants, braces, dentures, and other treatments.
  • Monitoring Tooth Growth: Particularly in children, to track the development of emerging teeth.

Frequency of Dental Radiographs

The frequency of dental X-rays depends on an individual's dental health needs. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that dentists make a patient-specific decision regarding the frequency of X-rays. Factors influencing this decision include the patient's current oral health, age, risk for disease, and any signs and symptoms of oral disease.

Risks Associated with Dental Radiographs

While dental X-rays do involve exposure to radiation, the levels are extremely low, especially with the advent of digital X-rays, which significantly reduce exposure compared to traditional film X-rays. The ADA and other health organizations consider dental X-rays to be safe when appropriate precautions, such as the use of lead aprons and thyroid collars, are taken.


In conclusion, dental radiographs are a vital part of diagnosing and treating dental issues. They provide valuable information that cannot be obtained through a visual examination alone. While there is a small risk associated with radiation exposure, the benefits of dental X-rays far outweigh the risks when they are performed properly and judiciously.

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