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Underneath it All: The Benefits of X-Rays

Underneath it All: The Benefits of X-Rays

What is X-Ray?

Dental X-rays, also known as dental radiographs, are images of the internal structure of our teeth and bones. X-rays are a form of energy that travels in waves; when these waves travel through solid objects, the object either absorbs the waves or they pass through the object. Our teeth and bones are dense, so they absorb X-rays. Our gums are less dense, so X-rays pass through them. As a result, X-ray images allow dentists to spot problems below the surface of
the teeth and gums such as the location of impacted wisdom teeth, cavities, abscesses and tumours.

Visual exams give us an overview of the mouth’s surface. Dr. Jaleel, your Ottawa dentist can assess the colour, texture and form of the soft tissues, as well as the surface integrity of the tooth structure visible to the eye, but this is only a fraction of what we may need to know. A wonderful analogy is that visually, Dr. Jaleel can see the tip of the iceberg, and the radiographs help dentists like Dr. Jaleel assess what lies beneath the waterline.


Are X-rays harmful?

To put it simply, dental X-rays are safe. However, they do require very low levels of radiation exposure, which makes the risk of potentially harmful effects very small. Dental X-ray equipment and techniques are designed to limit the body’s exposure to radiation, and every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is as low as possible. To protect patients, a leaded apron is placed on the abdomen during an X-ray, and a leaded thyroid collar is recommended for women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and children. The technology of radiographs has changed markedly over the past decades, resulting in significantly lower exposure levels.

How often does my dentist need to take X-rays?

It depends on a patient’s present oral health, age, risk for disease and any signs or symptoms of oral disease. Dr. Jaleel will review your history, examine your mouth and then discuss with you her recommendations for X-rays.

A History of the X-Ray

In 1905, Dr. Wilhelm Reöntgen discovered the X-ray in Württemburg, Germany. Months later, Dr. C. Edmund Kells of New Orleans installed the first X-ray apparatus in his office, where he exposed the first dental radiograph in the Western Hemisphere. Dr. Frank D. Price, who worked in Toronto from 1892 to 1935, built the first dental X-ray machine in Canada within a year of Dr. Reöntgen’s discovery. By this time, dentists had become aware of the dangers of radiation; Dr. Price and his brother developed a process of adding lead salts to rubber to make protective aprons and gloves. By the late 1930s, dental X-ray equipment was becoming essential to dental practices. The technology appeared around the time when it was recognized that diseases of the mouth might have an effect on general health.