Los Altos Dentists Dr. Jeffrey Diamond and Dr. John McBirney believe that our patients’ health comes first. This is why we offer digital X-rays, an innovation in dental technology that allows dentists to significantly reduce the amount of radiation patients are exposed to with standard X-ray, and to view X-rays in real time. To take digital X-rays, we will place a very small sensor into the mouth. As soon as the picture is taken, an image pops up on a nearby computer screen. This amazing technology allows you to view any potential problems yourself, and allows you to discuss them with Dr. Diamond and Dr. McBirney. The high-resolution data provided by digital X-rays allows you to make better-informed decisions with regards to your dental health.
Dental radiographs are vital to proper and timely diagnosis of tooth decay, fractures, and pathology of the root and supporting bone. Often, even the most thorough clinical exam will not reveal serious underlying issues because they cannot be seen from the surface.
Dentist professionals often assert that radiation doses from dental X-rays, especially the modern digital ones we use, are extremely minimal, but concrete numbers are rarely discussed. Below is a chart comparing actual radiation dosages from current dental and medical imaging to other common sources of radiation.
Chart adapted from The Clinician’s Report, 2016
A recent article in the New York Times (Summer 2016) reported that the American Dental Association has updated its recommendations for frequency of routine check-up radiographs in low risk patients. Now, for these patients, check-up X-rays are recommended every 18-24 months, as opposed to every 12. However, for patients with risk factors such as multiple crowns and fillings, a history of recurrent decay, low salivary flow, or periodontal bone loss, we still recommend check-up radiographs every 12 months.
We respect individual values and the choices a person makes for oneself and their family. Of course you have the right decline radiographs, and but please understand that the doctor cannot give you a “clean bill” of dental health without current X-rays. In the interest of professional responsibility, we my ask you to sign a document stating that you understand the risk of declining X-rays, and acknowledging that we have made the recommendation.
- Bite Wing: Shows back teeth from a straight-on angle, allows us to see and evaluate the contact points between the teeth, restoration margins (edges), and supporting bone health.
- Peri-apical (PA): Shows the root apex (tip) of a tooth, allows us to evaluate the health of the root, nerve, and surrounding bone. PA radiographs are also useful to evaluate the contact points between front teeth.
- Panoramic: Provides macro-scale image of the teeth, bone, jaw joints, and sinuses. Panoramic radiographs are used to efficiently show any major dental issues with teeth, roots, or bone, as well to evaluate the position of any impacted teeth, location of nerves, and health of the TMJ (jaw joint) and sinuses.
• A routine “check-up” set of radiographs includes four bite wing images and 3-4 peri-apical images of the front teeth, as well as peri-apical images of any back teeth that have symptoms or a history of root canal therapy. We recommend check up X-rays every 12-18 months.
• A set of PA radiographs of back teeth, and/or a panoramic radiograph, depending on need, should be taken every 3-5 years.
• When a tooth becomes newly symptomatic, a PA and bite wing are usually required to evaluate the tooth for decay, fractures, and nerve/bone pathology.
We care very much about minimizing radiation exposure to our patients and staff. We rely on clinical exams, and use other diagnostic technology when possible (DIAGNOdent and CariVu), but these are used as adjunct tools only, and often have a higher rate of false positives than traditional X-rays, so they cannot replace radiographs, but they can serve as useful tools explore problem areas that may warrant X-rays, or to confirm radiographic findings. For more on our diagnostic technology, click here.