When it comes to dental x-rays, the number of images taken can vary depending on the individual's needs. Generally, a complete set of x-rays consists of 14 to 20 individual images and is usually recommended during the first visit with a new dentist. This helps the dentist make a proper diagnosis and plan treatment. A panorex is an x-ray of the entire mouth taken without ever putting an X-ray film on the mouth.
Dr. Sarah Dirks, a dentist in a private practice in San Antonio, Texas, noted that it seemed that her patient's dentist's plan was “exaggerated”, especially since asking for so many x-rays seemed to be routine for him. The use of cone-beam dental CT scans for routine screening purposes, such as diagnosing tooth decay, is not recommended according to Dr. Mallya, associate professor of radiology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Dentistry.
Children are more sensitive than adults to radiation damage, so health care organizations are taking steps to reduce the dose they receive through x-rays. The motto of the Image Gently campaign is “More is not usually better”. Many patients want to limit dental x-rays due to cost, discomfort, or fear of radiation. To address this concern, Dr.
Mallya suggests emphasizing the diagnostic benefits of dental x-rays which “make patients feel more comfortable”. Dentists should be able to justify the importance of any X-ray they take. Advances in dentistry have made it possible to limit the amount of radiation patients receive through X-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to a small area, high-speed x-rays, and lead-coated full-body aprons. In addition to keeping exposure to x-rays to a minimum, provincial regulations require dental offices to follow certain procedures when imaging is taken, such as placing lead aprons and neck collars on patients.
Dentists should not rely on a general X-ray policy for all patients, in accordance with guidelines established by the American Dental Association. The type of x-ray you need, your location, and your dentist's experience influence your dental costs. For those with good oral health and low risk of dental problems, an X-ray every two or three years should suffice. X-rays from the first visit are also used to compare them with X-rays taken over time to detect problems and unexpected changes.
It is important for dentists to be aware of any potential risks associated with frequent dental x-rays and disclose them to their patients. Last year, after receiving a similar number of dental x-rays, one patient developed a couple of skin cancers on the same side of their face that had to be removed. Dental x-rays are needed to identify hidden tooth decay, such as in the areas between the teeth or under old fillings and crowns. In conclusion, it is important for dentists to take into account each patient's individual needs when determining how many x-rays are necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment planning.
Patients should also be aware of any potential risks associated with frequent dental x-rays and discuss them with their dentist.