Is it Worth it to Get Dental X-Rays?
When you’re considering any dental procedure or device, you need to know the risks, and weigh them against the benefits. The choice of whether or not to have a dental procedure is very personal, and every person will make their choice differently. Here, we’ll discuss the major risks and benefits of getting dental radiographs, commonly known as X-rays. (A radiograph is a picture, taken with a type of radiation known as X-rays.) If you want to learn more about what the procedure and the recovery are like, please visit Dental X-rays: the Procedure and Recovery.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential dental procedure with your own dentist.
Any procedure has risks, and they should be carefully weighed before you decide to proceed. The main risk of having dental radiographs taken is the exposure to radiation. X-rays are a potentially damaging type of radiation, and exposure to high levels of X-rays has been associated with cancer and other health problems in many studies. Fortunately, the amount of radiation used in taking dental X-ray images is extremely small, and is made even smaller by the use of digital X-ray technology, which is much more sensitive and therefore able to use lower amounts of X-ray radiation. Compared to the amount of radiation you’re exposed to in your everyday environment, such as from the sun, dental X-rays add a very small amount.
Additionally, most dentists will cover your torso and neck with an apron lined with lead in order to protect you while your radiographs are being taken. (The lead is encased within the apron, so you will not be exposed to lead.) Lead blocks X-rays, preventing them from reaching those tissues. Even though the doses are quite small, this minimizes the possibility of radiation damaging the tissues.
Many problems with teeth cannot be seen directly. For instance, decay between two teeth will be hidden. Taking radiographs with X-rays allow the detection of this decay, so that it can be addressed before it becomes more severe. Any problems with the roots of the teeth, or with the space inside the teeth (called the pulp), also aren’t visible from the outside. X-rays allow dentists to detect any problems in these areas, so that they can potentially be treated.
Additionally, orthodontists need to know what the roots of the teeth look like in order to plan treatment, and oral surgeons need to know where all structures are located to safely plan surgery. X-rays give these dentists a way to map out the whole mouth, even the parts that aren’t visible, to ensure treatment that is safe and effective. It isn’t possible to have orthodontic treatment or oral surgery without X-rays being taken.
A series of dental X-rays can cost up to $250, depending on the type(s) of X-rays being taken, though the cost is usually much lower. Insurance will usually pay part or all of this cost. The cost varies between dentists and in different regions, so check with the dentist you’re considering to find out the exact price. For more detail, please visit our Dental X-rays Cost page.