The doctor shows the patient an x-ray image

Patients seeking medical care of any kind are naturally concerned about their health and wellbeing, so it only makes sense to ask if medical procedures are safe. One aspect of orthodontic appointments some patients get worried about is the process of getting an x-ray. Rest assured, getting x-rays for orthodontic purposes is perfectly safe, and the images they produce are essential to the success of your treatment.

What Is an X-ray?

Also called radiographs, an x-ray is an image of objects not immediately visible on the surface. In particular, x-rays allow doctors and other medical practitioners to view what’s under the skin, including bones, organs, and any anomalies that may be causes for concern.

The way an x-ray works is pretty simple. Small amounts of radiation are sent through the body. The higher the density of an object, the harder it is for the waves to pass through. Because of this, items of varying densities show up differently from each other on the image, creating clear pictures of what’s going on inside. Or in the case of orthodontic x-rays, what’s going on below the gums.

Are X-Rays Safe?

The idea of having radiation sent through the body can be alarming. After all, doesn’t radiation cause cancer? While it’s true that abnormally high levels of radiation contribute to adverse health effects like cancer, x-rays don’t get anywhere near these dangerous levels.

The unit of measurement for radiation is called a millisievert (mSv), and the average level of radiation that Americans are exposed to each year just from nature and the infrastructure around them is about 3.7 mSv. Conventional x-rays used for medical images expose the patient to roughly 0.01 mSv, which amounts to the typical radiation exposure that happens in a day. And for dental x-rays, the amount is actually even less.

There are some medical scans that can actually put patients at some risk for adverse effects after multiple sessions, such as CT scans. However, you would need to get an extreme amount of x-rays to cause damage.

Why Do Orthodontists Take X-Rays?

When you go to the orthodontist for your initial exam and for subsequent checkups, your orthodontist will need to see more than what is visible on the surface. While images of the tops of your teeth and what’s simply visible to the naked eye are all essential in prescribing and supervising orthodontic treatment, x-rays are needed to get a look at other important factors that will affect your treatment.

X-ray images can uncover any pathologies or anomalies present, such as undetected tumors, impacted teeth and root health. While finding these sorts of things isn’t really the purpose of getting an orthodontic x-ray, many people discover important things that save their lives from getting x-rays.

But when it comes to your orthodontic treatment, x-ray images will help guide the progress of your teeth. They’ll also reveal if there are any problems that need to be addressed, such as the health and length of the roots of your teeth during treatment. By taking a look at what’s under the surface, your orthodontist will be able to give you the best treatment possible.

To learn more about orthodontic treatment and what to expect at your appointments, contact Charleston Orthodontic Specialists today!