Dental x-rays are an important tool for detecting oral cancer in its early stages. While they may not reveal all cases of the disease, they can be useful during an oral cancer screening test. X-rays can show if there is any cancer in the jaw that has spread from another area of the mouth or originated there. According to the American Cancer Society, the chances of surviving and fully recovering from oral cancer are much higher if it is detected early.
A dental x-ray can detect irregularities that could be an early sign of oral cancer. Advances in dentistry, such as X-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to a small area, high-speed x-rays, and lead-coated full-body aprons, have improved safety and precision controls on X-ray machines. These improvements limit the amount of radiation patients receive. Dental x-rays are essential because they can detect problems early, making them easier to treat successfully.
X-rays pass through less dense objects, such as the gums and cheeks, and appear as dark areas on X-ray film. People who don't have recent dental or gum diseases and who have scheduled ongoing visits with their dentist may only need X-rays every two years. X-rays from the first visit are also used to compare them with X-rays taken over time to detect problems and unexpected changes. The American Dental Association recommends that patients cover their bodies with a lead apron while having an X-ray.
When you go to have a routine dental exam, you can expect that x-rays will be part of your dentist's preventive routine. However, current dental x-rays use very low levels of radiation that pose minimal health risk.