Are you a patient with tight purse strings, who is looking to save money on dental visits? It’s pretty common knowledge that one way to cut back on your dental bill is by opting out of X-rays.
However, sometimes taking X-rays can save you money in the long run, because it will help you stop major and expensive problems from forming. Knowing when to get dental X-rays can be confusing. At Dentistry of Nashville, we care about our patients budgets. Drs. Vaughan, Elam, and Fleming are blogging from their Nashville practice to discuss why dentists take X-rays, and when you should get them.
As a patient, you might be curious why dentists do the things they do, like take X-rays or spend more time checking an area of the mouth. A good dentist will tell you why he’s taking X-rays. Dental X-rays, like traditional X-rays, are taken so that the dentist can see things below the surface of the skin.
Just as traditional X-rays show general doctors where a bone is broken, dental X-rays show the dentist where tooth decay is located. Dentists can see your tooth decay when performing an oral exam, but X-rays help dentists see smaller areas of decay, like decay occurring between the teeth.
Another reason dentists take X-rays is to look for decay under cavity fillings. They also show bone loss that’s resultant of gum disease. In fact, X-rays show changes in the bone, or infections in the bottom of the teeth.
Your dentist will also take X-rays before performing cosmetic treatments like dental implants, braces, or dentures. X-rays will also help your dentist review abscesses, so they can see the size of the infection for treatment.
When You Should Get X-rays
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to getting X-rays. The frequency of dental X-rays you get should be dependent on your unique medical and dental history, as well as current symptoms.
Some folks need X-rays as frequently as every six months. This is usually if the patient has a history of cavities and gum disease. Patients without any tooth pain or history of gum disease and cavities, who visit the dentist regularly, only need to get X-rays every couple of years.
If you’re a new patient to a practice, your dentist should take X-rays as an initial exam to create a frame of reference to compare your dental changes to.
So, if you’re a patient with a fairly healthy dental record, who takes good care of their teeth by brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist regularly, you can feel comfortable asking your dentist to hold off on the X-rays.
However, there are certain categories of patients who should get X-rays more frequently. For one, children need more X-rays than adults, since their teeth and jaws are still growing, and they have tiny teeth. Tooth decay spreads quicker in children, because the decay can reach the softer parts of their teeth quicker. With that being said, their teeth should be monitored to avoid serious dental complications.
Another group that should take X-rays more frequently are adults with comprehensive restoration work, like fillings. These adults are advised to get X-rays more often to see if decay is spreading under their filling. Decay becomes especially detrimental to your dental health when it reaches the roots of your teeth. Decay under fillings can lead to tooth loss or the need for an expensive root canal.
If you drink a lot of sugary drinks, you should get X-rays to look for tooth decay. As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, sugar creates the perfect environment for cavities and decay to take hold.
Patients with gum disease should get X-rays more frequently to monitor for bone loss. Chronic gum disease attacks the attachment of the teeth to the gum tissue, and creates bone loss. This is especially detrimental and can lead to tooth loss.
If you suffer from dry mouth, known in the dental community as xerostomia. Sometimes people who take certain drugs like antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and antihistamines are more prone to suffer from dry mouths. Dry mouth leads to the development of cavities, because your mouth needs saliva to rinse out acid and bacteria.
It’s not secret that smoking is horrible for you teeth. However, if you’re a smoker, you might be burning more money at the dentist. Smokers should get more X-rays than the average patient, because they need to monitor for bone loss. Smokers are also more at risk for gum disease, since smoking slows the blood flow to the gums and causes gum disease.
Talk To Your Dentist
If you’re worried that your dentist is taking unnecessary amounts of X-rays, you should talk to your dentist. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford the X-rays, then be honest with your dentist on why you’re hesitant to get them. After receiving a dental X-ray, ask your doctor what he or she is looking for, and ask them to go over the X-rays with you. They will be able to point out spots of decay in your X-ray, and help you get a read on the state of your dental health.