Oral surgeons use X-rays to help diagnose disease, pathology, trauma, and dentofacial deformities that are not visible during a clinical examination. When examining X-rays, oral surgeons can more accurately identify issues worth addressing, such as impacted teeth or general decay. Many oral surgeons rely on panoramic X-rays or a Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) scan as they develop plans for dental implants and other necessary procedures. Below are some answers to some commonly asked questions by our patients.
Do I really need to have an X-ray taken today?
How often X-rays, or radiographs, should be taken depends on specific factors such as an individual’s current oral health, age, risk for disease and any signs or symptoms of oral disease. This means that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the interval between dental X-rays. Oral surgeons adhere to the “ALARA” principle, a phrase coined in 1973 by the International Commission on Radiologic Protection, that stands for “As Low as Reasonably Achievable.” When possible, the oral surgeon will obtain current radiographs from your general dentist.
Why does the oral surgeon need a panoramic X-ray?
Panoramic X-rays show the whole mouth and are often necessary for an accurate treatment plan. A few of the procedures for which panoramic X-rays are essential are third molar (wisdom tooth) extractions, tooth position abnormalities, dental implant planning, and lesions (growths, cysts, tumors) to name a few. Panoramic X-rays will also show our doctors the overall health and condition of a tooth, as well as its position in relation to other teeth or nerves. Sometimes, the oral surgeon will obtain a 3D CBCT scan to aid in evaluating precise nerve position, volume of bone prior to dental implants and bone grafting, and the extent of oral pathology in the jaws. A CBCT scan will ensure the doctor has the necessary information available in order to proceed with surgery in a safe and efficient manner.
Are X-rays safe?
Dental X-rays are perfectly safe for the vast majority of our patients - and they are often necessary to ensure long-term dental health. Radiation exposure in the oral surgery office represents a minor contribution to the total exposure of radiation from all other sources. In general, the imaging used at Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery exposes the patient to 10-50 times less radiation than hospital imaging. In fact, taking a flight between Los Angeles and London exposes a passenger to more radiation than a panoramic X-ray or CBCT scan.
What if I am pregnant or have thyroid disease?
Because they produce low levels of radiation, X-rays may be worth avoiding for select patients. Pregnant women, in particular, should avoid X-rays unless required to thoroughly diagnose and treat an urgent condition. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women reaffirmed its committee opinion in 2017: “Patients often need reassurance that prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral conditions, including dental X-rays (with shielding of the abdomen and thyroid) … [is] safe during pregnancy.” Caution may also prove necessary for patients with thyroid conditions. These individuals can typically complete safe X-rays if equipped with specially designed thyroid collars. All offices at Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery are equipped with the necessary shielding equipment to minimize radiation exposure and maximize patient safety.
At Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, we are committed to providing the highest level of care and safety for all of our patients. We ensure our equipment is routinely tested and operating within the standard set by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. If you have any radiation concerns or questions, please do not hesitate asking one of our eight board-certified surgeons or certified radiation technicians.