Why do I need so many dental x-rays?

I get asked everyday should why I need a dental x-rays. I tell the patient that is the only way I can see between the teeth.  Dental decay can be the fastest growing oral pathology.

What needs to occur to get a cavity? To get a cavity you need three things:

  1. You need to have bacteria in your mouth. All people have some bacteria in the mouth. All of us need a balance of the good and bad bacteria so our oral cavity functions well. Too little bacteria and we will get an over growth of yeast. So a healthy mouth needs some bacteria.
  2. The bacteria need a food source. The bacteria can digest most of the foods we eat. So anything other than water eventually allows bacteria to digest then secret acid as the byproduct of their digestion which causes dental decay.
  3. The last thing that is needed for dental decay is time. I mean that if bacteria have enough time they will digest the food source then excrete acids which can start the decay process.

As you can see, we all have bacteria, we all need to eat and if left alone this will lead to tooth decay. We can’t control the bacteria or the need to eat. We can control the time that the bacteria is digesting the food. So ideally, every time we eat we should brush, floss and rinse to stop the decay process. Some people are lucky and have less aggressive dental decay bacteria and can neglect the cleaning process and still not get decay. They are the lucky ones. However, as in life , not everyone is that lucky.

Our jobs as dentist is to try to look for the small decay and remove so that they don’t turn into large problems will could lead to tooth loss. We need x-rays to do that searching. The radiation absorbed by dental x-rays is minimum and less if wearing a lead shield. The amount of radiation is less then we get by walking outside for any extended time and much less then flying cross country or sun tanning.

In summary, unless you brush and floss after each time anything other than water gets into your mouth you should have x-rays to look for decay. And remember that serial x-rays gives us the ability to tract if the decay process is progressing into a situation needed to address. I will discuss the actual technical process of taking, reading and interpreting dental x-rays in a later blog. The reality is that a slight angulation change can obscure the view so serial x-rays help expose past decay process hidden by normal variations in dental x-ray taking process.


In you have any concerns or questions please call my office. Smile Solutions 302-999-8113