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Do I really need x-rays?

One common question that people have when visiting the dentist is “Do I really need x-rays?”

Yes! Dental x-rays help us diagnose problems that the dentist cannot see with the naked eye.

A perfectly healthy looking tooth:

 

 

An x-ray of the same tooth which shows a cavity large enough that the tooth had to be taken out:

The easiest way to think of it is like this:

X-rays help us diagnose a cavity that is THIS big.

We can see a cavity with our magnifying eyewear that is THIS big.

It starts to hurt when a cavity is THIS big.

Catching the cavity while it is small has two benefits:

  1. The fix is much more conservative. A smaller cavity means less tooth structure needs to be cleaned out in order to place a filling. The larger a cavity becomes, the more tooth structure is lost.
  2. The fix is quicker and more cost effective. A filling that gets too big goes into the nerve of the tooth and ends up needing a root canal and crown, which takes more appointments and costs more.

 

X-rays also help diagnose other problems, such as gum disease, impacted teeth, and cysts.

Concerns about dental x-rays also revolve around how much radiation you will be exposed to.