Why does my Dentist in Katy, TX Take X-Rays?

dentist in Katy, TX performing dental exam and cleaning


Practically everyone has had dental x-rays taken at one point or another. When you visit your dentist in Katy, TX, we typically recommend having x-rays on a regular basis. Have you ever wondered why the dentist takes x-rays during normal exams and cleanings? Let’s talk about x-rays, why they’re important, and how they can help keep your teeth and mouth healthy. 

Why does my Dentist in Katy, TX Take X-Rays?

You might wonder why it’s important to get x-rays for your teeth. The short answer is x-rays can help detect dental health issues before they become visible to the naked eye or start causing major symptoms.

Generally, the earlier your dentist can identify problems, the easier they are to fix. Most dental health issues get worse over time, so any tool that helps with early detection is important. Early detection and treatment for dental health issues can save you time, money, pain, and even major health risks. 

You see, there are many dental and oral diseases that aren’t necessarily easy to see during a routine exam. Some diseases are almost impossible to see, while others aren’t visible until they progress significantly. X-rays can help detect many of these issues.

Because of the benefits of early detection, many dental insurance providers will even cover the cost of x-rays in full during your normal dental exam (though you should check the details of your policy to be sure). 

dental x-ray from dentist in Katy, TX
Your dentist in Katy, TX performs x-rays to look at your teeth and bones in your face.

An x-ray works by using a certain type of radiation in a beam that your Katy dentist can direct toward your mouth. This small amount of radiation passes through the area, but hard tissues like bones and teeth block it. Using a special type of film or digital sensor, we can turn the blocked radiation into an image. (If you’re concerned about the radiation from a dental x-ray, we’ll discuss the safety of getting regular x-rays in a later section.)

What do Dental X-Rays Help Diagnose?

So, what is your dentist in Katy, TX looking for with an x-ray? There are many things a dental x-ray can help detect, including:

  • Tooth decay between teeth
  • Tooth decay underneath fillings and other restorations
  • Impacted teeth
  • Bone loss in the jaw
  • Changes in the bone and teeth that can indicate infections
  • Changes in bone that indicate gum disease
  • Abscesses
  • Cysts
  • Some tumors
  • Abnormalities in the jaw or palette 

The dentist may also recommend x-rays before certain procedures. For instance, we may recommend having an x-ray before a root canal, before starting braces or invisalign, or before oral surgery like wisdom tooth extraction. In these cases, an x-ray can help provide a fuller picture of your teeth and overall dental health before starting treatment. 

How Often should my Katy Dentist Take X-Rays?

So, how often will your dentist near Katy recommend you get x-rays? This depends on many different factors, like age, current dental health, and more. The dentist can help determine a roadmap for your dental health, including how often you need dental x-rays and other routine services like exams and cleanings. In many cases, the first time you see a dentist, they will take x-rays to help establish a baseline for your dental health. If you recently switched dentists, you can usually request for your x-ray records to be sent to your new dental clinic as well. After having a baseline for your dental and oral health, your dentist will recommend dental x-ray frequency based on your individual circumstances and dental health risks. 

Regular Dental X-Rays for Children

In general, children typically need more frequent x-rays than adults. There are a few reasons for this. First, children’s teeth are often more vulnerable to decay and cavities than adult teeth. So, regular x-rays can help children get cavity treatment as soon as possible. Also, children are still growing. X-rays from your family dentist can help evaluate growth for the teeth and jaw. X-rays may help detect potential issues that may cause problems later for oral health. For example, palate abnormalities, jaw deformities or growth issues, or inadequate space for adult teeth. Identifying these issues early can help with early treatment that may help prevent major dental and oral health issues later in life. 

For children with low dental health risks, typically the dentist will recommend having dental x-rays every one to two years. However, for children with high risks or active dental health issues, we may recommend x-rays every six months to one year. 

Regular Dental X-Rays for Adults

Adult teeth tend to be stronger than children’s teeth, so most adults need x-rays less frequently than children. Current recommendations from the American Dental Association for adults with low risk for dental health issues is to get x-rays every two to three years.

Adults with higher risk may need more frequent dental x-rays. Talk to your dentist in Katy, TX about your specific risks and how often you need x-rays. However, if you’re at a higher risk, generally the recommendation is to get x-rays every six to 18 months.

Some reasons you might need more frequent dental x-rays include:

  • History of frequent cavities/tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Dry mouth
  • Tobacco use

Diagnosing Specific Symptoms

Of course, sometimes the dentist will recommend x-rays outside of your normal dental x-ray schedule. For instance, if you have a toothache or other symptoms, an x-ray can help our dentist diagnose the problem. For instance, an x-ray can help diagnose cavities, abscesses, and other issues that might cause symptoms such as pain, sensitivity, bad breath, and more. In many cases, we’ll take an x-ray of the specific tooth or teeth causing the symptoms if the pain is localized.

Types of X-Rays Your Dentist in Katy, TX May Recommend

Not every x-ray your Katy dentist takes is the same. There are many different types of dental x-rays. Some of the most common include:

  • Bitewing x-rays
  • Occlusal dental x-rays
  • Periapical x-rays
  • Panoramic  dental x-rays

Bitewing dental x-rays are great for identifying decay between teeth and underneath fillings. These are some of the most common and typically involve holding a piece of film or sensor between your teeth for the x-ray. Usually the dentist will take four bitewing x-rays to see upper and lower teeth in different areas of your mouth. 

Occlusal x-rays are taken with the jaw closed and generally show all the teeth. Dentists often use these to see how the teeth line up and look for issues with the palate or jaw growth. 

Periapical x-rays focus on just one or two teeth from the top all the way to the root of the tooth. Generally, the dentist will recommend these x-rays if you have symptoms in a specific tooth or to help plan treatment for a cavity, root canal, or other dental treatment that affects just one or two teeth. 

A panoramic x-ray uses an x-ray machine that will revolve around your head in a semi-circle to capture all of your teeth in one image. 

Are X-Rays Safe?

So, is it safe to get regular dental x-rays? Many people may be concerned about being exposed to radiation during an x-ray. This is understandable, and if you’re concerned, you can always talk to your dentist in Katy, TX about reducing radiation exposure while still protecting your dental health. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that your average dental x-ray exposes you to a very low dose of radiation. To illustrate, the average amount of radiation for bitewing x-rays is approximately 0.005 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation. According to the CDC, an average plane ride from the east coast to the west coast of the U.S. exposes you to about 0.035 mSv of radiation, which is about seven times more than a dental x-ray. In most cases, the benefits of early detection for dental health issues outweighs the risk of such low radiation exposure. 

For pregnant women, the American Dental Association says in most cases it’s safe to get dental x-rays as well. Naturally, you’ll want to discuss this with your Katy dentist and OB/GYN, but generally you can keep getting dental x-rays as needed, as lead aprons can help block x-rays from your abdomen. 

Extra Safety Measures Your Dentist in Katy, TX Takes to Reduce Radiation Exposure

Despite the low risks, there are several things your dentist does to help reduce potential radiation exposure. The first is recommending a frequency schedule based on your individual risks to help provide you with the least amount of exposure while still addressing your dental health. 

In addition, your dentist in Katy, TX takes special precautions during dental x-rays. For example, our team will typically drape you with a lead apron, which helps block radiation exposure. In some cases, we may also use a special lead neck guard to help protect your thyroid gland from x-ray radiation. 

Need a Dentist Near Katy? Get Quality Dental Care for the Whole Family at The ToothBooth

Let us help you take care of your smile at The ToothBooth. We offer quality dental care for the whole family, from toddlers to grandparents. Dr. Taha, DDS offers experienced care for a variety of dental health issues, from regular preventative care to oral surgery and cosmetic dentistry. We’re here to help you get a healthy smile. Call us now at (832) 437-0841 to schedule a dentist appointment!