Are Dental X-Rays Safe? An Expert's Perspective

It's clear that dental x-rays have a purpose and can be beneficial. However, any level of radiation carries a potential risk to patients. That's why it's important to minimize exposure as much as possible. So, are dental x-rays safe? The answer is yes, they are safe and often extremely beneficial for oral health.

It's understandable to question why some dentists get 12 oral x-rays every year when the worst dental treatment they need is prophylaxis (cleaning) or a single cavity in a dentist's office. X-rays are a common dental procedure that allows dentists to see the depths of the gums, including bones, tooth roots, and tooth enamel. Studies have reported inconsistent statistical significance of exposure to X-rays for dental diagnosis and health effects, depending on the topics and design of the research; therefore, related studies should be organized systematically. We tried to summarize the importance of test results according to the types of health outcomes and the types of dental x-rays.

Dental x-rays are necessary to identify hidden tooth decay, such as in the areas between the teeth or under old fillings and crowns. This means that the amount of radiation exposure from an X-ray can vary between dental and medical procedures. Generally, a dental x-ray shows all of the daily exposure to background radiation in a one-second pulse of energy. For comparison, a single digital dental X-ray has 0.1 mrem of radiation and a set of 4 bites has 0.4 mrem.

Some studies that examined the health effects related to exposure to dental X-rays suggested a possible increase in the risk of meningioma and thyroid cancer. In 4 of the 5 thyroid-related studies, there was a significant correlation with dental diagnostic x-rays. If dental insurance pays for 10, 20, or 30 x-rays over a certain period of time, dentists will give you as many x-rays as are allowed and paid for by your dental insurance. Two years ago, I changed my interval of bite X-rays from every year to every two years, because for two years in a row the dental assistant did the X-rays several times.

If x-rays are so safe, why does a patient have to wear a lead apron and protect themselves around the neck against thyroid cancer because of the X-rays? Dentists quickly realize that there are multiple sources of radiation in your daily life that expose you to higher levels, over a year, than a dental x-ray.

Madison Bew
Madison Bew

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