Does anyone else have a problem with Dental X-Rays?

JudithApril 10, 2003

I am wondering if it's just me or if anyone else has a problem with dental x-rays. I don't remember having this problem when I was a young and had the x-rays every 6 months. Back then, I don't remember them puting those big plastic things with the big, uncomfortable x-ray film in my mouth. I have a small mouth and the big plastic thing with the x-ray film is just too big for my mouth. I end up feeling like I am being smothered with the big plastic thing and the x-ray film being shoved down my throat and then having to bite down on it while it is cutting the tender place under my tongue, not to mention that the thing also gags me and I just hate it and can hardly stand it. The woman in the dentist's office seems to think that I just want to be a difficult patient but she is quite rough in the way she puts the thing in my mouth and I really feel like I am being smothered. Is is just me or does anyone else have a problem with this? I asked one of my co-workers and she just shrugged and said it didn't bother her, but her mouth is bigger than mine, really it is.

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Boy, can I relate, Judith. I'm not small anywhere but my
mouth! The x-ray film frames are a literal pain. Don't
know how to get around them, but you might tell your
dentist. Sometimes the assistants or even the dentist
don't understand someone else's circumstances. If they
show a little sympathy, it seems to help somewhat. Haven't
been much help, probably, but I hope you at least get
someone who works quickly. Good luck in the future.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 2:51AM
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Keep running into you! Hope you don't mind --- this is a GREAT question! I also have a small mouth. When I ask (and frankly at some dentists I have to insist), they will use the smaller plastich thingies.

The denstists seem to be more pushy and won't do it unless you insist. An Endodontist (sp?) doing a root canal one time told me that the smaller plastic thingies were available because a lot of adults have small mouths.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 7:55AM
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yes there is a minor discomfort....but it's no biggie.....lasts for less than 20 seconds.....and I can stand that.
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 9:40AM
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Lindac, if yours is 'no biggie', then you don't have the problem we seem to have.

It is not a matter of standing minor discomfort for 20 seconds. Until you have had the problem, you can't understand.

And I thought I would just have to stand the pain, until my dear endodontist told me that they have small sized plastic holders.

My mouth is so small that as a child I didn't have room for all my teeth and had to have my palate widened. As an adult, my wisdom teeth had to be chipped out because they had grown up into the jawbone for lack of room.

My daughter is going to have to have the same thing, according to her dentist.

Those plastic X-ray holders are not just uncomfortable, but actually very painful in a very small mouth.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 12:26PM
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Well said, TREKaren. If having the x-rays is only a minor discomfort, then that person doesn't have a small mouth. I am not talking of a minor discomfort. I am talking about a lot of pain, feeling like I am being smothered and sometimes gagging. The woman who does the x-rays for my dentist is slow and clumsy putting the contraption in my mouth and shoves it in and back several times while I am in a lot of discomfort. Then she has to look at it a while to be sure it's in the right place and it usually isn't so that she has to do it all over again. Actual discomfort time, it seems like forever, but probably only about a minute for each x-ray. I am glad to know that there are smaller plastic holders for the x-ray film. No one ever told me that, certainly my dentist's office never told me there were smaller ones. I will be sure to ask about it next time. Thanks for mentioning it.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 12:43PM
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I have this problem too. I gag and gag and the bitewings cut into my gum or at least feel like they are cutting. The smaller holders are a great idea! One more thing - the very instant I hear that the xray machine click or whatever it does to indicate that xray is finished, I take the film out of my mouth. I don't wait for the hygienist/tech to come back into the room.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 6:19PM
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I have the same problem, and the last time the hygenist took x-rays of the back teeth, it hurt quite abit.
Now, when I go for a cleaning, I tell them outright..NO x-rays and why (the last time they cut my soft tissue)
If I think I have a problem, then I'll let them x-ray., so it's good to know they have a smaller holder they could use.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2003 at 8:20PM
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Same small mouth problem. I always request that they use pediatric x-ray film & clips since my mouth is small. Actually one of the hygentist first suggested and started using them when it was such a problem with the adult size. It hurts me less and makes it easier for them to get the x-ray in the correct position.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2003 at 11:26PM
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"The woman who does the x-rays for my dentist is slow and clumsy putting the contraption in my mouth and shoves it in and back several times while I am in a lot of discomfort. Then she has to look at it a while to be sure it's in the right place and it usually isn't so that she has to do it all over again."
If you don't lkike the way the tech acts, TELL THE DENTIST. If she is slow, clumsy, and unsympathetic ... he NEEDS to know. She needs to be retrained.

I'm assertive when it comes to medical treatment - I'm paying the bills, I get to critique the technique.

There are several sizes of film carriers - tell her to try one size smaller. Don't ask "if", tell her to make sure shegets one size smaller for you and spiut the danged thing out if it's too large. Or bite her when she tries to adjust it ... if you snap your jaws shut the instant the tech says "bite down" you can usually get them.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2003 at 8:09AM
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You'd think with all the advances in modern dentistry they'd have come up with something more comfortable by now!

PS: I'm 100% behind Lazygardens' approach!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2003 at 4:00PM
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I have a small mouth too and always hated xrays being taken. I thought I was the only one that was terrified of them. Thanks for bringing this topic up - it's good to see I am not alone with my feelings.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2003 at 11:59PM
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I'm glad to hear about this, too. When I was young, my orthodontist realized I wouldn't have room in my mouth for all the usual teeth, so I had four teeth pulled early on to make room for the others.

I always gag when they do the X-rays. They're always uncomfortable, but I don't put up with real pain - I just spit them out and tell them it hurts too much. And I do the same as Puddlejumper - spit them out as soon as I hear the machine go off.

It never occurred to me to ask for something smaller. You can bet I'll be asking for the pediatric film next time!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2003 at 4:16AM
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Hi all,

This is the first time I have been to this health forum, and found this one post from long ago.

I can't believe no one has mentioned asking the dentist to use nitrous (happy gas) while taking X-rays. I have a major gag reflex and was always a dental phobic. The only way anything could be jammed into the back of my mouth was if I was on the gas. Even major work like drilling and filling was much more easily tolerated.

Like everything else, some people can be helped by it and others can't. My wife is one who doesn't care for it, so she just has to put up with being totally awake and alert when she has work done. (Ouch)


    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 9:16PM
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Thank you for all of your replies. My dentist's office does not use nitrous oxide and they told me that they don't have any smaller film holders. I wonder what they use on small children. The last time I had to have the x-rays for a root canal on a molar last November it was awful. The dental assistant who was taking the x-rays was worse, if possible, than the other one. The holder was large and I asked if she had a smaller one and she said they didn't. Then she said that she knew what to do and took a box of salt and poured it in my mouth and inserted the big holder. That was worse. I don't know what the salt was supposed to do. Another dental assistant was waiting with her patient for an x-ray and she asked the one doing my x-ray if the holder was gagging me and the one doing my x-ray said, "no, she just doesn't want it in her mouth, it's not gagging her." I told her that it certainly was gagging me and I don't know why she didn't think that it was. When the x-ray was finally over, I told the man waiting for his x-ray that I hoped it went better than mine and he looked like he would rather not have one at all. There is some sort of a panoramic x-ray machine and I wonder how that works. For several years when I was a teenager, I had dental x-rays every 6 months and I don't remember it being like it is now and I don't remember any large plastic contraption to hold the film. And, to top it off, I don't think the dentist did the root canal correctly. It was a long drawn out process that took over a month and 4 or 5 awful appointments before he finished and the tooth still has feeling in it. I am due to go back but have cancelled my last appointment.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2004 at 4:51PM
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From the way you describe your experience with your dentist,I don't think I would take a dead dog there.

I lived in the Detroit area until I was 30, and moved about 5 hours north, some 20 years ago. I had a lot of work done by a young dentist who maintained my teeth for about 5 years before I moved. I found another dentist near my new home that I think I went to only once and really didn't care for. I decided that going back to my original dentist was the best thing to do, even though the convenience was lacking due to the distance, and especially if any emergencies came up. I thought that I was unusual having to travel so far to him, but he told me he had one patient that moved to Hawaii, but still came back to him for his care.

Over the years, he has had a lot of different hygienists working for him, so not every visit for a check-up and X-rays was enjoyable(?) If there was anything that I thought was a problem with the way any of the hygienists were working on me, I would let the dentist know. I do remember one girl that he had that was totally unskilled for what she was doing, and I found out from him that she was just there for that one day because the regular person had been sick and he got her from some dental temp agency.

I don't know what you have in your area for dental health care, but I would make an effort to ask other people if they have a dentist that they think is doing a good job and they are happy with. There should be no reason to put up with 18th century dental care. A dentist that doesn't offer or use the latest technology probably doesn't know the proper procedures to do correct dental work. And nitrous has been around for over 100 years.

By the way, my dentist charges me $15 for nitrous. He probably shouldn't charge anything since it makes it easier for him to work in there.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2004 at 12:05AM
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That large plastic contraption you mention saves using your fingers to hold the xray film in place,and thus saving your fingers from exposure to the x-rays.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2004 at 10:54PM
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Judith, my most current experience was terrible and I have a small mouth as well. One of the dentists in the current practice where I had my dental work done left to start his own practice. I followed him to his new office and became his new "victim". When the girl did the x-rays last month, she warned me that it was going to hurt and she apologized to me. I have never been "hurt" before just from having x-ray film put in my mouth. Some of them are very uncomfortable, but HURT??? I just thought "sure", was nonchalant and shrugged it off until she put those things in my mouth and it did hurt, very much. She told me they "wrapped them in tape" to try and lessen the pain for their patients.

For this same reason, I am switching dentists and going to my husband's new dental practice, which I should have done from the start. Their equipment and office are more up to date. I am calling in the morning and requesting that my x-rays be sent to this other dental office. I would suggest you find another dentist.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2004 at 12:26AM
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Some patients do have a strong gag reflex and this really does make taking x-rays difficult. I do find the stories here distressing, as a hygienist with 30 years of clinical experience, 23 of which were specializing in pediatrics. As to the pain aspect, I always bent the heck out of the film to make it softer, expecially at the corners. Working in pediatrics (and being the daughter of a pediatric dentist) has made me a strong believer in the golden rule (treat your patients as you would want to be treated).

For a true gagger (where this is a physical reflex and is not anxiety related), sometimes having the patient lick a small amount of table salt prior to having the x-rays will help. Here are some other comments:

-dental disease is almost always chronic in nature (i.e.,developes slowly over a long period of time). The exception to this would be endodontic problems (abscesses), which can be acute

-based on the most recent CDC health/risk assessments, routine dental x-rays (bitewings) should only be done once every 18-24 months in the typical healthy adult patient. For children, they are recommended more frequently, since they tend to have higher and more rapid decay rates.

-There are work-arounds to periapical x-rays (the ones placed in the stiff plastic holders). Next time you are due for a full-mouth series (should only be done every 5-6 years), ask them to take a panorex instead. For this type of x-ray, you don't need anything in your mouth and it shows the entire mouth on one large film. It does have limitations, since it does not contain the detail that bite wings and periapicals do. Therefore, it is not a good way to diagnose decay, but it does a pretty good job of providing a high-level overview of your general oral condition.

-I have seen Nitrous Oxide used to reduce fear and gagging prior to taking x-rays on young children, but this is rare, since the Nitrous is often in rooms that do not contain x-ray equipment. When used, you actually have to administer the Nitrous until it takes effect, and then take the mask off termporarily in order to get the x-rays. This is cumbersome to say the least and also not all dentists use Nitrous. I am a big believer in the value of Nitrous and I find it hard to understand why all dentists don't use it. In pediatrics, we used it for ALL patients undergoing restorative work. I think those dentists that don't use it are either too old and set in their ways (though it has been in wide use in dentistry since the 1960's) or don't want to pay the added insurance premium.

-Keep in mind that some providers are overly agressive in the x-ray department due to their concern about liability and wanting to document everything for their own protection.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2004 at 4:02PM
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why are they still using xrays...wish they would use somethng else like ultrasound or something that was more wholestic.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2004 at 1:44AM
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There is no such thing as ultrasound for detecting and diagnosing dental disease, though the industry is working on developing x-ray imaging equipment. It is available but very expensive, though this is probably the way of the future. Dentists and hygienists are not taking x-rays for the fun of it, they are taking them as an important diagnostic tool. Also, just because something is "wholestic" whatever that is, does not necessary make it more effective.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2004 at 1:45AM
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Matthew Hutchinson

I started root canal treatment yesterday. After all the drilling, injection, etc, they wanted to see how my canals were as they couldn't find both of them. It's very uncomfortable getting such a large plate inside my small mouth and the student dentist had trouble. It was the most uncomfortable procedure out of everything, getting the sharp corners of the plate in my mouth. But after some struggle the qualified dentist came in to help and told the dental student to use some numbing gel round the plate and used a smaller cage for it. I don't know if it was the combination of all of these things, but it slipped right in pretty easily with little pain after that. Ask your dentist to do this before using inserting it. I'm guessing the numbing gel numbed the area/lubricated the plate, so it slid in and or the cage holding it was smaller so all worked in combination to then make the procedure much easier. Pain level before doing this.... Root canal pain 2/10. injection pain 3/10 and x-ray plate pain 8/10. But after doing this x-ray plate pain was 1/10. All in all so far the procedure has been quite easy and pain free. To be honest the mild pain from the tooth before was worse than the procedure, taking away the first experience with the x-ray. But now i'm not worried at all.

    Bookmark   last Friday at 7:20AM
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