The old recommendation was to get bite wing X-rays of your teeth yearly, and full X-rays every three years, regardless of risk factors. Now, the recommendation is to only get X-rays as needed. Dentists are advised to make decisions that will minimize patient exposure to radiation, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up—people don’t change overnight.
The most important thing is to make sure you find a good, honest dentist. The great recession has caused many people to cut back on health care expenses, like dentistry, so many dentists are hurting for patients—one of our three neighbors who are dentists cut back to just him and his wife, who he brought in to do reception. That doesn’t mean he’s ripping anyone off, but be aware of any air of desperation. The current health care fiasco is only going to make things worse as people lose their policies or downgrade to more affordable plans.
Consider your risk—do you have a history of cavities? Injury or surgery complications you might need to look for? Do you think something might be wrong now, or are you just getting your twice yearly teeth cleaning? Then talk about it with your dentist. Some may be resistant to change, and that can ok—what’s important is that they talk to you honestly about your risk (not frighteningly) then respect your decision on whether or not you want to get X-rays during that visit.
Hopefully, if you do need X-rays, your dentist is up to date on his techniques and equipment.
-Always wear a lead apron for X-rays. Depending on the area that needs to be photographed, it should also cover your thyroid.
-Ideally, you want the X-ray equipment to use digital imagery, because that takes the photo faster and offers less exposure. However, what is often more important is that the tech taking your X-rays is skilled and efficient—they can get the image quickly with no errors, and sometimes this means a dentist still using older equipment.
-Your dentist should have paid the few hundred dollars to upgrade from round to rectangular collimation—basically, they should have switched to a method that avoid the radiation sensitive salivary glands.
-You do not (usually) need X-rays to get braces.
-Especially limit X-ray exposure for children, whose still developing tissue is especially vulnerable. 3D X-rays are fun, and possibly make dentist’s jobs easier, but pack a lot more radiation.
-Some people don’t plan on getting anything fixed—if you know that you won’t be getting drilled anytime soon if they find a cavity, schedule the X-ray for later. Either when you can afford the procedure, or can take the time off work, or are ready to deal with it.
And don’t forget: you can often avoid the need for X-rays be taking good care of yourself. Brush after meals, floss at least once daily (if you do it at night, that will give you the longest stretch between meals to have a flossed mouth, reduce the amount of plague you swallow—which is bad for your arteries—and help with morning breath!), and swish your colloidal silver around your mouth before swallowing it.
How do you handle getting X-rays at the dentist’s office?