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People sometimes inquire about the necessity and safety of dental x-rays. A complete series of radiographs (x-ray images) is one of the most valuable and essential diagnostic tools available to the dental profession. They disclose areas of decay between teeth and under old restorations that are detectable by no other means. Also seen on the films are bony defects such as cysts, abscesses and tumors, or areas where bone support for the teeth has deteriorated due to periodontal disease. The use of x-rays very often detects some of the above situations early enough to prevent a future more advanced problem. For example, early detection of a cavity and its subsequent treatment can prevent a future abscess necessitating root canal treatment or loss of the tooth.
The safety of dental x-rays is well documented. When used properly, modern dental x-ray equipment emits very small amounts of radiation. This, coupled with computerized digital imaging available today, and proper use of protective aprons, results in very little radiation exposure to the patient. Compared to even the most sensitive x-ray film, digital imaging alone reduces x-ray exposure 80 to 90 percent. Of course, the ultimate safety feature is the assurance that x-ray radiation is used by properly trained personnel, and used only when necessary.