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Do I Really Have to Get Dental X-rays…Again? Why? Are They Risky?

Sable DDS Xray

Dental radiographs (x-rays) allow us to monitor bone levels and rule out any disease processes that might be occurring. Radiographs allow us to see structures that are not visible to the naked eye – the spaces between teeth, under the soft tissue, and inside the bone.  All of this really, really helps us work with you on your oral health, especially to diagnosis any potential “danger zones!” In fact, without x-rays, we cannot detect:

  • Cavities
  • Periodontal Disease
  • Infections and Abscesses
  • Cysts
  • Tumors
  • Cancer

In fact, one of the most important uses of radiographs is to allow us to compare a current x-ray to a previous one.  This comparison, side-by-side, helps identify any changes from the previous period.  The comparison is important, because it tells us not only what is going on with the teeth on that day, but also the rate of change from the previous period.  A slow rate of change, even if not in a positive direction, may allow us to be more conservative in treatment.  A faster rate of change may indicate a need to treat in a more aggressive manner.

The American Dental Association recommends that bite-wing oral radiographs are updated annually, and panoramic radiograph (or full mouth intraoral series) updated every three years, to provide for optimal oral care and accurate diagnosis.  However, for patients with any risk factors or significant dental work, we may recommend panoramic x-rays to be done annually.

So, even with all that, you may be thinking right now “What about the radiation?”  Are you subjecting me to unnecessary or excessive radiation with dental x-rays?

The clear and definitive answer is NO.

If you have wondered about this or expressed this to us in the last few years, you are not alone.  We want to let you know that we take your concerns seriously.  We are also hearing new and erroneous theories on radiation exposure from dental x-rays.  So, to help get you up to (x-ray) speed, we want to share a quick science lesson:

Radiation dosage is measured in units called millirems (mrem).  According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) U.S. residents, on average, receive 620 mrem every year, with approximately one-half coming from background sources like outer space, radioactive materials in the earth, small amounts of radioactive material in foods and products that we use, etc.  The other half come from exposure to mrem in medical procedures. In general, according to the USNRC, a yearly dose of 620 millirem from all radiation sources has not been shown to cause humans any harm.

A typical digital dental x-ray (the kind we take) exposes a patient to less than 0.5 mrem.  This compares to mrem of 10, 60 and 72 for chest, abdomen, and mammogram x-rays, respectively.  So as you can see, the relatively small amount of mrem from dental x-rays illustrates the American Dental Association’s confidence in the safety of this very important diagnostic tool.  And as I mentioned before, without x-rays, we cannot identify disease processes that pose risks to your dental and overall health.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding dental radiographs (x-rays), please call the office and ask Dr. Sable to call you to address them. We care about more than your dental health, we care about YOU!

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Have You Ever Had Pain in Your Tooth…But You Are Not Even Sure Which Tooth It Is?

Sable DDS sore teeth

Does that make you feel crazy?  Well…you aren’t! There are actually several reasons why it can be difficult to pinpoint the origin of tooth pain.

Let’s take a step back and consider some of the possible reasons. Tooth decay can cause bacteria to infect the interior of the tooth and then trigger pain from changes in temperature or pressure.  This pain is coming from the nerve, but those nerves aren’t tied to one specific tooth. Therefore, it can feel like the pain is coming from a group of teeth or even from the sinus area. (who knew??) This type of pain may decrease over time, even without treatment, but the problem is simply hiding in the wings… and can lead to a root canal and eventually to gum disease.

Going the other direction, gum disease can lead to root canal infection.  Common periodontal disease caused by plaque along the gum line can lead to inflammation and infection of the gums.  The gum can then begin to detach from the tooth surface and form a “pocket.” As this worsens, the infection can spread to the root of a tooth and then into the tissue inside the tooth.   The resulting pain may feel like gum and tooth pain.  Since some of these roots can be in the proximity of roots of other teeth, the infection and pain can spread to nearby teeth and gum area.

THEN to confuse matters even more, a broken tooth can cause tooth AND gum pain depending on the location of the fracture in the tooth.

So, clear as mud??  We tried to simplify this as much as possible, but we also recognize that not every dental case fits carefully into one bucket. That is why we are here to help figure it out.   If you are experiencing tooth or gum pain, give us a call; we can work together to figure out what exactly is happening and create a treatment plan to make you feel better.

So, there…all better?

(Source:  Dear Doctor Dentistry & Oral Health, Issue 20)

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Will My Filling Last Forever? I Think You Know Where This Is Heading….

While we believe that we can perform dental miracles, we sadly can not make your filling last forever! sigh.  A filling is extremely durable and can last for many, many years in most cases, but there may come a time when it needs to be replaced.  Sorry.

So, how long will it last?  Well, as in life, the answer is… It Depends! In this case, it depends on a number of factors, such as the type of procedure performed, the size or area being treated or replaced, the kind of materials used for the filling and the patient’s level of oral hygiene and care.

And then, despite your incredible efforts, a filling may crack or fall out unexpectedly. Over time, dental fillings can be weakened by:

  • Tooth decay,
  • Frequent jaw clenching and teeth grinding (bruxism),
  • Chewing on hard items or foods,
  • Injury or trauma, such as those sustained during sports activities,
  • Time; no filling lasts forever no matter how well kept!

If you ever have a filling fall out just remember, don’t panic and don’t wait. Even if it falls out after hours, call us immediately–we’re here for you in an emergency! We will get you in as quickly as we can. In the meantime, keep your filling if you can– but don’t try to push it back into place. Make sure to keep the affected area clean and debris-free.

If you don’t experience discomfort after losing a filling, it is still important to come in to have it treated as soon as possible. Not seeking immediate care could result in pain, discomfort and even tooth loss.

Regular dental visits are imperative to maintaining a healthy smile. With that being said, we know not every dental emergency happens during normal business hours. That’s why we strive to make ourselves available to our patients as often as possible. If you need us, email, call or text us! Your health and comfort is our number one priority.