There has been a lot of “facts” thrown around, often without proper knowledge on the subject, about the radiation involved in taking dental x-rays. That is, there are some misconceptions that I want to help clear up about dental x-rays, their purpose, the frequency of which they should be taken, and also a small comparison between digital and film dental x-rays.
First off, let us talk about the stigma associated with x-rays in general: radiation. Radiation usually brings to the mind some pretty bad things. We may think of atomic bombs, cancer, sickness etc. when we think of radiation.
But radiation also has some pretty beneficial applications. Namely, using x-rays to help diagnose many medical and dental problems and therefore work towards handling whatever it is that is causing the problems.
The amount of radiation received from having dental x-rays taken is actually pretty small in the broad scheme of things. On average, any US citizen receives about 3.00 mSv just from living in the country, from natural sources, in a year. You receive even less radiation from dental x-rays.
Frequency and Use of Dental X-Rays
The reason the dentist takes x-rays is not to make you feel uncomfortable, it is to help diagnose oral health conditions, sometimes very serious ones. Health conditions such as abscesses, dental caries, infected roots and bone loss around the teeth due to gum disease.
Bitewing dental x-rays are usually done about 1 time a year. Full mouth series dental x-rays are done (usually) once every 3-5 years. The reason the bitewing x-rays are done once per year is that they cover the area most prone (as we chew most of our food with them, and they are more difficult to clean) to dental caries (cavities), the molars. The full mouth x-rays do not need to be done as often.
X-rays are a diagnostic tool that helps prevent and detect health problems, prevent and possibly help the dentist remove any infection from your mouth.