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3150 North Elm Street, Suite 210
Greensboro, NC 27408

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Greensboro Dental Clinic, Dr. Margaret Szott

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November 8th, 2019

“I don’t want x-rays”

“I don’t believe in them.   They are expensive.  They are not necessary.  I have had a lot of x-rays for other medical reasons recently.  They hurt my mouth.”  These are a few of the reasons we, as dental professionals, hear on a daily basis from our patients to avoid having dental x-rays.

Tooth X-rays (radiographs) are images of your teeth that we use to evaluate your oral health. They are obtained with low levels of radiation and show us the inside of your teeth and gums – places we cannot see when we simply look in your mouth.  They help us find problems such as tooth decay, abscesses, bone loss, impacted teeth, and other potential problems while they are small, and hopefully before they become painful.

Tooth decay and dental infection progress at different rates in different people.  A tooth that was perfectly healthy one year could have very deep decay 12 months later.  Just because there is no pain or sensitivity in your mouth doesn’t mean that there are no developing problems.  If a tooth hurts, that usually means there is a serious problem that could necessitate a root canal and crown, or worse, an extraction.

Dental x-rays allow us to detect problems while they are small and thus treat them conservatively.  While there is a cost to take and read x-rays, they are far less expensive than the dental treatment usually required to treat a tooth that has developed pain. 

In the above example, the picture on the left shows a bitewing x-ray taken in February, 2018.  The red area circled shows a sound tooth with an existing tooth-colored filling.  The picture on the right was taken in October, 2019 (14 months later) and the red area circled shows quite deep decay (darker shadow) that has developed under that filling, and the blue line represents the nerve of the tooth.  The decay in this tooth is very deep.  The patient is experiencing NO pain.  We are going to attempt to restore this tooth with a new filling, but there is a chance that the patient may need a much more expensive root canal and crown due to the depth of this tooth decay. 

This series of pictures is of my own mother.  The film on the left was taken in July, 2008 and there is no evidence of pathology.  The film on the right was part of a routine full mouth series of x-rays (which we like to update every 3-5 years) taken in March, 2012.  The area marked with a dotted red line is an abscess.  Again, my mother was having NO pain, but this tooth needed a root canal.  Because she had the root canal before she started to experience pain, it was uneventful and pain free.

Dental radiographs are very important in our ability to properly diagnose and treat dental disease in the early stages.  Without them, we are not able to properly do our job in caring for your oral health.


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3150 North Elm Street
Suite 210
Greensboro, NC 27408
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