There are certain things you expect when you visit your dentist in Sparks — to get a cleaning, a thorough exam, perhaps a filling or two, and occasionally some x-rays. But are dental x-rays actually necessary? After all, if nothing looks wrong or feels wrong, do you really need to get them? The short answer is yes, and for several reasons.
What Are Dental X-Rays?
Just like an x-ray of your arm or leg, dental x-rays take images that show the hard surfaces in your mouth. The energy of x-rays passes through the skin and highlights only dense areas such as teeth and bone. The skeletal-like images produced from x-rays give your dentist in Sparks an inside look at your oral health and can help identify problems that can’t be seen through a visual or manual dental exam alone.
What Do Dental X-Rays Show?
We already know that dental x-rays show the teeth and bone, but what does your dentist look for on x-rays? The truth is, x-ray images can identify several things that could otherwise be missed and progress into more serious problems.
Dental x-rays are most commonly used to help diagnose decay and cavities when they’re still small and easier to treat. You may not yet even have any signs of a cavity, but a quick x-ray can show one developing. X-rays can also catch decay that can develop under a previous dental restoration such as a crown or a filling. Finding and treating these areas of decay early can save you from ever experiencing the pain that could result if left alone.
When a patient has a toothache, their dentist in Sparks will most likely start by taking a few x-rays to get a closer look at the area. Oftentimes, a toothache can be a sign of an infection, also known as an abscess. To treat an abscess, your dentist will most likely remove the infected area of the tooth and may choose to cap it with a dental crown. Severe cases may even require an extraction.
- Bone Loss
Our teeth are typically strongly secured into our jaw bone. But things like gum disease, missing teeth, and osteoporosis can cause the jaw bone to deteriorate. This bone loss can increase the risk of tooth loss, cause headaches and jaw pain, and can even affect the appearance of the face making it appear wrinkly or saggy.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
We understand that there may be some concerns surrounding the use of dental x-rays and exposure to radiation. However, advancements in dental technology have made digital dental x-rays one of the lowest forms of radiation emission. In fact, research conducted by the Kois Center for Dental Education shows that four bitewing x-rays emit only 0.005 mSv (millisieverts) of radiation. This is less than what humans are exposed to naturally every day.
Even though you may not get dental x-rays at every appointment, you should get them when they are recommended. They will help your dentist provide personalized care, catch and treat problems early, and help you maintain a healthy smile.
Each and every February, loved ones throughout the United States go above and beyond preparing for Valentine’s Day. Whether you choose to show your love with chocolates or flowers, one thing remains constant — bright red hearts are everywhere we look. But there’s another reason (besides Valentine’s Day) that we should pay attention to these hearts. February is American Heart Health Month and focuses on raising awareness of how daily choices affect our risk of heart disease. In fact, this holiday has a special place in your Sparks dentist’s heart because there is a strong connection between oral health and heart health.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection in the gum tissues usually caused by a buildup of bacteria and plaque. When someone doesn’t brush their teeth often enough or well enough, plaque is left behind and can easily work its way up under the gum, settle in, and cause trouble.
There are four stages of gum disease including:
- Slight Periodontal Disease
- Moderate Periodontal Disease
- Advanced Periodontal Disease
Gum disease can be treated if caught in the gingivitis stage, so make sure you visit your dentist in Sparks every six months for dental cleanings, x-rays, and thorough exams so we can identify any problems early.
What Does This Have to Do With Your Heart?
If gingivitis isn’t diagnosed and treated quickly it will progress into slight, moderate, or advanced periodontal disease, all of which are irreversible. When gum disease progresses into these advanced stages, the infection can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. This can affect areas outside of the mouth, including the heart.
Bacteria from gum disease in the bloodstream causes the body to produce too much C-reactive protein (CRP). Higher than normal levels of CRP can lead to serious conditions such as:
- Inflamed arteries
- Blood clots
- Heart attacks
Knowing that your oral health can have such an impact on your overall wellness makes it so incredibly important that you practice good oral hygiene habits at home, including brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing every day.
Signs of Gum Disease
Since early diagnosis is so crucial to treating gum disease before it has the chance to affect the rest of your body, you need to know the signs of gum disease. Keep an eye out for:
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Puffy, tender gums
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
If you notice any of the signs of gum disease, call your dentist in Sparks to schedule an appointment. This American Heart Health Month, commit to reducing your chances of heart disease by brushing and flossing every day, seeing your dentist in Sparks twice a year, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. For more ideas on how to live a heart-healthy life, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.