Why Do I Need X-Rays?


           Dental radiographs (x-rays) are a NECESSITY for diagnosing disorders in your mouth, such as tooth decay and gum disease, and the maintenance of your oral health. Note the word necessity, as in essential, imperative or necessary. Without radiographs, Dr. McArdle will not be able to find early problems in your mouth that are apparent by no other means. If these problems are not detected early, they can develop into much larger difficulties for you that will entail more discomfort, more extensive treatment and more expense.

           Dental x-rays produce an image when a radiographic film or plate that has been exposed to ionizing radiation through your oral tissues is processed in a developing machine or digital scanner. This is similar to how a photographic image is produced with the main difference being that the photo film or capture card has been exposed to reflected light. Since light will not pass through your oral structures and ionizing radiation will, the latter is used for dental images. This allows Dr. McArdle to see circumstance in your mouth that are not visible to the naked eye. Examples of things in your mouth not detectable by visual examination include decay between your back teeth (interproximal) where they touch each other, loss of jaw bone around your teeth under your gums and impacted teeth within your jaw bones to name a few.


The dark spot on the right side of the lower middle tooth is decay that can only be diagnosed with an x-ray.

           It is important to understand that, although its effects are additive in the short term, ionizing radiation only affects you when you are exposed to it. In other words, any minuscule damage done to your mouth when a dental radiograph is taken only occurs as the film is exposed to the ionizing radiation (usually lasting less than a second) and is then quickly self repaired by your body. You would have to have constant exposure of the very low amounts of ionizing radiation used in dental x-rays over several hours in a row to just begin to have any even minor detrimental effects to your mouth. This is a TOTALLY different situation from instances where your radiation exposure would be massive, constant and unavoidable such as in the cases of nuclear waste being buried in a dump that your home was later built on or the fall out from an atomic bomb settling in your area. Understand that the amount of radiation used for a standard full mouth series is less than that of one chest x-ray, and even less than that in our office because we use the latest in digital x-ray technology. THE RISKS YOU TAKE TO YOUR ORAL HEALTH IF YOU REFUSE DENTAL RADIOGRAPHS ARE FAR GREATER THAN ANY THERE MIGHT BE FROM HAVING THOSE X-RAYS TAKEN. If you need proof of this, Dr. McArdle can show you the case of a patient who refused x-rays for sixteen months and went from having a tooth with no perceptible decay to needing to have that tooth removed.


An impacted upper wisdom tooth that could only be detected by an x-ray.

           Dr. McArdle orders only the radiographs he believes he needs to properly examine your mouth. These include bitewing (check-up) x-rays at least once a year if you have any back teeth in contact with adjacent ones and a full mouth series or panoramic view at least once every three years. Bitewing radiographs reveal the two most common forms of dental disease; interproximal decay and bone loss. A full mouth series or panoramic view (showing the entire root system of each of your teeth which bitewings do not) discloses any tooth nerve problems, jaw fractures, impacted teeth, bone tumors, dilacerated (severely curved) roots or other less common abnormalities you may have. Without this schedule of radiographs, Dr. McArdle is working in the blind and this he will not do. He has his own bitewing radiographs taken twice a year.


Panoramic x-rays allow for diagnosis of your jaw joints (red arrows) and maxillary sinuses (white arrows).



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Dr. Barry F. McArdle, D.M.D. ~ 118 Maplewood Avenue, The Captain Moses House, Suite B-7, Portsmouth, NH 03801

Questions or Request an Appointment: Contact Us     Phone: 603-430-1010     Email: drmcardle@mcardledmd.com     Website: http://mcardledmd.com