– By Wesley Mullins, DDS
Dental x-rays are something that has been around dentistry for decades. Why is it important to take dental x-rays? What do we use x-rays for in dentistry? Is it safe to take dental x-rays? Why do x-rays cost so much? What does my insurance cover concerning dental x-rays? These are all questions my team and I answer every single day at My Family Dentistry. Let’s start by talking about why digital x-rays are recommended by Dr. Wesley S. Mullins.
When I opened my practice in 2004, I made the decision to go digital with my dental x-rays. This does increase cost up front but you gain in back in efficiency and cost of chemicals used in a processor. The cost to run these machines and pay for repairs as well as the expertise that goes into reading the x-ray image contributes to the high cost of x-rays. In some ways you could say that a digital x-ray is a green way doing dentistry because there are no harmful fumes or chemicals involved in development. The sensor is not much unlike that found in today’s digital cameras. The digital x-ray sensor is calibrated to use a very low dose of radiation to display a picture of your teeth and bone on the computer screen instantly.
We take x-rays on our patients to detect many different things. The x-rays that most people are familiar with are called dental bite-wings. These are the ones you put in your mouth and bite down to reveal a picture of your upper and lower teeth. Dr. Mullins recommends these once a year starting at age 5. These allow us to see if there are cavities in between your teeth, the amount of bone loss, and other pathology. Sometimes we take an x-ray that is called a periapical or PA. These are used to show us the entire tooth. Periapicals are very helpful in diagnosing for decay, abscess, root fracture, and bone loss. It may be necessary to take x-rays of all your teeth which combine periapicals and bite-wings. This is called a full-mouth series. We like to do these once every 3-5 years. The one last x-ray that we take routinely is called a dental panoramic or pano. Typically taken every 3 years, this machine rotates around your head showing the doctor many things that cannot be seen on normal x-rays. Cancer, sinus problems, jaw joint issues and impacted wisdom teeth are all things that a dental panoramic is used to diagnose.
Dental insurance should never be used to dictate treatment. We have found that bite-wings are usually covered by dental insurance once per year and panoramic x-rays are usually covered once every 3-5 years. If you have questions regarding your coverage you should contact your insurance provider.
My Family Dentistry will always use the protocols that give us the best results for your care and safety. Digital x-rays offer another advantage that is amazing. The sensor has been calibrated to use 90% less radiation than traditional film based x-rays. If you have a full mouth x-ray taken its equivalent to spending a few minutes in the sunshine.
If you have not had a good check-up at a dentist in a while or you just need to start seeing a great team that loves to care and provide the best dentistry available, we would love for you give us a call and schedule a New Patient Orientation today.
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