The Safety of Dental Digital X-Rays

If you are in any way concerned about the safety of the necessary digital x-rays we prescribe for you in our office, please do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to sit down and read this article link. It is the best written, most concise, factual, credible, article I have found online.
Dental X-rays and Brain Tumors — Oh My!


We are too!  That’s why we want you to know the facts about the x-rays taken in our office.  The following exposures of bone marrow to radiation during typical medical and dental x-ray examinations are listed below in millirems, a measurement of radiation.  Take a look at how dental x-rays compare to other forms of diagnostic films.
These values all relate to the OLD technique of using film x-rays.
We now use digital x-rays, with no film. This allows us to use up to 90% LESS radiation than what you see in this document.
The annual maximum occupational exposure for U.S. radiation workers has been set at 5,000 millirems.  Low doses spread out over a period of time are not as harmful as larger doses at once because the body has time to recover.


Pelvimetry:                    examination to evaluate the
                                      proportions of the birth canal             875
Mammography:             breast examination                           1000
Lower Spine                                                                             450
Middle Spine                                                                            347


Abdomen                                                                   147
Ribs                                                                           143
Pelvis                                                                         133
Skull                                                                             78
Hip                                                                               72


Cervical Spine (neck)                                                    52
Femur (upper leg)                                                          21
Dental (Full mouth series) with Digital             less than 1
Dental (Bitewing) with Digital                        less than 0.05
You would have to take 2,000 dental x-rays to equal the radiation in 1 mammogram!  We would have to take almost 10,000 dental x-rays to reach your maximum safe yearly dose!
There is background radiation from concrete buildings, roads, and of course the sun!  Just standing around outside for several minutes, you receive more than 3 bitewing x-rays worth of radiation every day!
In fact, several radiologists have published papers indicating low level doses of radiation actually reduce cancer risks!
When you weigh these facts against the serious, progressive disease processes such as cavities, gum disease, abscesses, and cancer that can go undetected without x-rays, it seems like a pretty fair, and extremely safe, trade off.
There is no question that having your dental x-rays taken regularly is well worth it!
1.    To determine the presence of hidden  decay.
2.    To determine the presence of dental abscess.
3.    To determine the presence of cysts.
4.    To determine the presence of tumors (benign or malignant).
5.    To determine whether to remove primary teeth.
6.    To determine if complete complement of permanent teeth is present.
7.    To determine condition of root canal filled teeth.
8.    To determine condition of deep restorations.
9.    To determine if decay is present in abnormal areas.
10.  To determine condition of supporting bone.
11.  To determine presence of impacted teeth.
12.  To determine if extra (supernumerary) teeth are present.
13.  To determine depth of periodontal abscess.
14. To determine strength of teeth for support of fixed bridge.
15.  To determine amount of bone destruction in periodontal disease.
16.  To determine presence of ill-fitting restorations.
17.  To determine reasons for pressure sensitivity.
18.  To determine presence of fractured roots.
19.  To determine location of abscess in multi-rooted teeth.
20.  To determine presence of foreign bodies.
21.  To locate fistula tract.
22.  To examine a bridge field.
23.  To locate hidden calculus.
24.  To observe root involvement with sinuses.
25.  To determine presence of abnormally shaped roots.
26.  To determine possible oral cancer problems.
Some FAQs on dental x-rays
Q: How often should a child have dental X-ray films?

Since every child is unique, the need for dental X-ray films varies from child to child. Films are taken only after reviewing your child’s medical and dental histories and performing a clinical examination, and only when they are likely to yield information that a visual examination cannot.
In general, children need X-rays more often than adults. Their mouths grow and change rapidly. They are more susceptible than adults to tooth decay. For children with a high risk of tooth decay, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends X-ray examinations every six months to detect cavities developing between the teeth. Children with a low risk of tooth decay require X-rays less frequently.

Q: Why should X-ray films be taken if my child has never had a cavity?

X-ray films detect much more than cavities. For example, X-rays may be needed to survey for erupting teeth, diagnose non painful silent bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment.

“Baby” or “Primary” teeth are much thinner than adult teeth. Cavities form quickly, in a matter a few months, compared to years in adults.
These baby teeth can look perfectly fine by the naked eye, and have absolutely no pain and have large serious cavities between the teeth invisible to a visual inspection of the mouth by the dentist.

Often our cavity -checking x-rays (called ;bite wing” x-rays) can  reveal LARGE cavities between the baby molars that no one was able to predict were there. If not caught early ..then by the time the child feels a toothache the condition can be serious, non salvage-able, expensive,  and there can be swelling, pus, infection, and an emergency need to extract the tooth.
. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable and affordable.

Q: Will X-ray films be taken routinely?

No. X-ray films are recommended only when necessary to evaluate and monitor your  oral health. The frequency of X-ray films is determined by your individual needs.

Q: If dental x-rays are so safe, why do the staff run out of the room when they take my x-rays?

All workers in all professions , that deal with radiation of any kind, are required by law to follow the “as low as reasonably possible” rule for safety. Since our staff take x-rays every day all day, year after year,  tiny little bits of exposure can add up over time.

Q: How safe are dental X-rays?

Dentists  are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. In fact, dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than undetected and untreated dental problems.

Q: What safeguards are used to protect my child from X-ray exposure?

Lead body aprons and shields help protect your child. Today’s equipment filters out unnecessary X-rays and restricts the X-ray beam to the area of interest. High-speed film, digital X-rays, and proper shielding assure that you  receive a minimal amount of radiation exposure.

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