Is there an alternative to dental x-rays?

Light can outperform X-rays in dental exams and avoids the use of ionizing radiation. Near-infrared (NIR) imaging technology has existed for more than a decade, but is still new to the dental industry. Infrared light makes tooth enamel appear transparent, while porous lesions or cavities trap light, making them appear darker. The dentist can see through the tooth and visualize its structure.

Thermography is one of the alternatives to dental x-rays. Thermal imaging allows dentists to focus on areas that may have an impact, infection, or a fundamental problem without radiation, as an alternative to dental x-rays. Most dentists don't use magnetic resonance imaging technology in their facilities because of the cost. A technician who specializes in these types of images is usually needed to operate the equipment.

Oral surgeons looking for specific MRI findings, such as microfissures, are more likely to use the technology at this time. Until there is a cost-effective method for using MRI in dental offices, it will continue to be an outsourced diagnostic tool. If your dentist needs x-rays for a specific diagnostic purpose, it may be appropriate to request a referral for an MRI. A large percentage of the dental industry is rapidly adopting digital x-rays.

A digital x-ray allows the dentist to take an image of the tooth or teeth and place it in an imaging program. Within this imaging program, there are a number of tools that will allow the dentist to take a close look at the teeth and surrounding structures with amazing precision. As a benefit to the patient, digital radiography also provides nearly 80% less radiation than a standard x-ray. This is because the digital version of the x-ray is much more sensitive to this radiation and has been specifically designed with the patient in mind.

The Smile On Dental Salon & Sleep Apnea Center takes a closer look at the pros and cons associated with dental x-rays and discusses the latest alternatives. The biggest advantage of dental x-rays is the dentist's ability to “see through the mouth” and get a realistic view of the teeth, bones and the tissue they contain. A panoramic dental X-ray machine, which surrounds the patient's head, emits twice as much radiation. One way to address this topic is to request that the oral exam be performed first to assess whether there is a real need for x-rays or if they can offer alternatives to dental x-rays.

Visualization can also help prepare for dental procedures that involve extensive cavities, root canals, dental implants, or difficult extractions. Images are only needed when a problem is identified, but more than 150 million dental x-rays are currently taken each year in the United States.

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