Oftentimes patients ask us, “Are dental x-rays safe?”
There are a lot of misconceptions as well as legitimate health concerns about dental X-rays.
First, many patients do not realize there are different types of X-rays and imaging techniques. And that, X-rays radiation dose varies depending on the type of x-ray being taken.
When considering whether you need a set of dental X-rays, it may help to weigh the pros and cons.
Benefits of Dental x-ray
Dental X-rays provide us with information that we use to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without x-rays, some problems may go undetected.
- Early signs of gum disease including changes in bone density.
- Small areas of decay or cavities in the teeth.
- Cysts or abscesses.
- Signs of diseases in the bone or bone damage.
- Evidence of trauma or injury.
- Issues concerning developmental abnormalities and alignment.
- Signs of some systemic illnesses.
- Signs of some types of tumors.
Dental X-rays use very low levels of radiation. And in most cases dentists seek to follow a protocol of “As Low As Reasonable Achievable” (the ALARA principle).
At Smile Avenue we use the latest technology that involves the use of an electronic sensor (instead of x-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged helping us to detect problems easier. Digital x-rays reduce radiation by as much as 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional x-rays.
We also use a protective lead apron whenever we take xrays
Comparing Dental X-rays radiation To Other Sources Of Radiation
Keep in mind that we naturally experience radiation from minerals in the earth. All organic matter including humans, animals, and vegetables contain carbon and potassium which happen to be radioactive. While it is impossible to avoid natural radiation, you may still want to avoid excessive radiation exposure. As Smile Smile Avenue, we think the potential life-saving benefits of occasional dental X-rays far outweighs the risk of the minimal radiation exposure involved in a set of X-rays.
Estimated dental X-ray radiation dose.
- Old-school film based dental X-ray – .5 mrem
- One digital dental X-ray – .08 mrem
- A set of four Bitewings – .4 mrem
An mrem refers to a “Millirem” which is the unit X-rays are measured by.
Notice more modern imaging techniques like digital X-rays reduce the dose.
Since we realize that radiation is all around us, let’s compare the radiation exposure in mrem from other sources:
- Flying in an airplane – .5 mrem per 30 minutes of flight.
- Smoking a daily pack of cigarettes – 36 mrem per year
- A mammogram screening – 42 mrem per breast
- Cooking using natural gas – 10 mrem per year
- Watching television or using a computer – 1 mrem per year
- Drinking water and eating food – 30 mrem per year
Smile Avenue Dental Center is here to help you
Depending on your age, health, and situation the frequency of recommended X-rays varies. Be sure to discuss any concerns with us as well as your primary care doctor.
This will help answer the question, are dental x-rays safe, and determine the benefits to see whether you need a set of X-rays.
You may not need a set of X-rays with every examination or even every year. Since the factors vary from person to person, this is a topic to discuss with your dental professional. Feel free to ask any questions or to express your concerns.
Regular dental screenings and dental cleanings are essential to protecting your dental health. Contact us today if you need to schedule your screening examination or dental cleaning.