Radiography in Endodontics

Why do we need to talk about radiography?

Radiography or x-rays have been used in dentistry for over a century to diagnose problems that cannot be assessed clinically. It has allowed dentistry to progress to a preventative level. At the same time dental x-rays have also attracted some bad press. This is because high doses of radiation may cause cancer, it is therefore generally assumed that low doses will also cause cancer.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that we are constantly exposed to radiation by virtue of our environment. Also certain activities such as watching television, using mobile phones and flying in aeroplanes increases our exposure.

Radiography at Camberwell Endodontics

What level of radiation is involved with dental radiography?

Dental radiography can vary according to the view and range of teeth involved. Two intraoral x-rays have a combined dose of 0.002 mSV which is the equivalent of 8.8 hours of natural background radiation. An OPG or CT scan would have a higher dose, but these films are not routinely taken.

Do I need a lead apron for dental x-rays?

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), the UK Guidance/National Radiation Protection Board, the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology and the European Commission on Radiation Protection all agree that there is no justification for the routine use of lead aprons.

This is because there is minimal benefit of using lead gowns with current high-speed films which have reduced radiation exposure.  However, lead aprons are still advised when treating pregnant women and to ease patient anxiety or concerns about radiation.

Do I need a thyroid shield during dental radiography?

Many studies conclude that there is no need for a protective lead apron during pregnancy and suggest pregnant women should not have their treatment deferred.  

However, Our advice is to defer treatment until the second trimester if possible. We choose to use a lead apron for our patients.

My dentist has already taken x-rays. Why do I need more?

X-rays are subjective. Good quality depends on factors such as

  • Angle at which the x-ray was taken
  • Exposure at time of x-ray
  • Digital or film based,
  • What views it covers.

A less than optimal x-ray can be dangerous. It may lead to a misdiagnosis and the need for many more X-rays. Sometimes we need to take our own radiographs to gather more information.

Endodontists are specifically trained in Dental Radiology and their expertise in this field allows them to take X-rays which offer the maximum amount of information required for optimum treatment outcomes

Do I need a thyroid shield during dental radiography?

The thyroid gland is a radiosensitive organ in neck. Hence a thyroid shield is recommended for all patients particularly children during dental radiography.

Are dental x-rays considered safe?

Dental radiography has come a long way. Hence it is important to know that some information on the internet may be based on old technology. In the current age of digital radiography, using high speed films, radiation exposure is minimal.

Why do we need x-rays during root canal treatment?

Endodontics involves cleaning and sealing the whole length of the root canal space. This is a space that cannot be viewed with the naked eye. It can only be caused using dental x-rays.

At Camberwell Endodontics, all our endodontists are very experienced and well versed in using technologies that aid in determining the root canal lengths and minimise the use of x-rays. However, it is important to understand that endodontics cannot be done without x-rays and each step needs to be verified with an x-ray.

What does Camberwell endodontics do to minimise radiation?

We use digital radiography with high speed dental films which reduce the radiation exposure. A lead apron/thyroid shield is always used. And finally, our speciality and experience in the field of endodontics allows us to take good quality x-rays first time round (Occasionally more than 1 film of an area is required to gather enough information to make a diagnosis)