How safe are dental X-rays, and when are they unsafe?
One of the main reasons patients visit us at Sayers Dental Aesthetics & Implants is so we can find dental problems before they become severe and expensive issues.
While routine examinations can ferret out common issues, some potentially dangerous problems aren’t visible to the naked eye.
This is why dentists consider X-rays such a useful tool in detection and diagnosis. X-rays can discover the very smallest problems while they are more easily treatable.
This includes some types of tumours, oral infections, and cavities.
Thanks to dental X-rays, we can diagnose and treat dental problems long before they become more serious.
With the early detection that X-rays allow, you can get the treatment you need before problems have a chance to develop.
But X-rays are a form of radiation, and that causes some patients to question their safety.
Let’s take a look.
What are X-rays?
X-rays are an imaging technology that allows medical practitioners to see teeth, bones, and organs within the body.
Overall, X-rays are quick, painless, and safe, particularly when compared to other methods of examining teeth, bones, and internal organs.
Radiation is sent through the body, and film plates record the results, in black and white.
How much radiation does an X-ray contain?
First of all, it is important to note that, as the threat of radiation has become clear and technology has advanced, so have the protective practices dentists take, including lead aprons and thyroid protection.
At the same time, the amount of radiation used has declined dramatically.
To put dental X-rays into perspective, let’s place them alongside other environmental sources of radiation, and see how they compare.
A single digital dental X-ray has about 0.1mrem of radiation, and a set of 4 bitewings has about 0.4mrem.
Compare that to:
- Smoking cigarettes: 1,300mrem annually
- Background radiation from soil: 35mrem per year
- Transcontinental flight: 2-4mrem
- Natural gas used for heating and cooking: 9mrem annually
- Drinking water: 5mrem annually
These comparisons make it clear how low the level of radiation is for an X-ray.
For an even more ridiculous comparison, consuming ten bananas exposes you to just as high a level of radiation as one X-ray does! And no one seems to be giving up on bananas!
So, dental X-rays do expose you to radiation. But the potential the benefits of X-rays
outweigh the risks, as our previous list of what they can uncover reveals.
How Often Should You Get an X-ray?
There is no one answer as your dental and medical history are involved in this decision. Many of us will receive X-rays annually, or even less, while others will have conditions that need to be followed.
Typically, if you choose a new dentist or haven’t visited in a long time, X-rays are an essential part of an initial examination that establishes a dental baseline, for comparison as time passes.
Who might need more X-rays?
- Children get more X-rays because their jaws and teeth are growing quickly, changing in ways that need to observed. Because children’s teeth are smaller, they can fall prey to decay much more rapidly.
- Adults with multiple dental restorations.
- People who consume a lot of sugar.
- People with periodontal (gum) disease that causes bone loss, or bone loss due to missing teeth.
- People who have a dry mouth.
- Smokers to keep track of bone loss resulting from periodontal disease (smokers are at increased risk of periodontal disease).
How Safe Are Dental X-rays?
Exposure to any radiation can be harmful. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during dental X-rays is minimal, and the damage and disease they can help you avoid is considerable.
If you are concerned about X-rays, talk to us about how often X-rays are needed and the reasons for which they are being taken. We can work together to answer your questions.
Who should NOT get X-rays?
Pregnant women. Pregnant women should avoid X-rays until after birth. This is to protect the health of the fetus, which is much more susceptible to radiation problems than grown adults.
The speed at which a fetus changes at the cellular and DNA level makes X-rays particularly dangerous. You should have regular dental check-ups during pregnancy.
Just make sure your Hoppers Crossing dentist knows about your condition.
Children. This is an arguable one. There’s no such thing as a completely safe exposure level, and radiation is cumulative over your lifetime.
Children may be vulnerable since they’re small, and their cells are dividing rapidly. Discuss this with your dentist.
Smiles in Hoppers Crossing!
At Sayers Dental Aesthetics & Implants, we believe everyone deserves high-quality dentistry, and we are here to help you achieve this.
Sayers Dental Aesthetics & Implants is a multi-surgery practice caring for the oral health needs of our local communities.
At Sayers Dental Aesthetics & Implants, our focus remains on providing patients with exceptional General, Orthodontic, and Implant dentistry.
We have a particular interest in implants, orthodontics, and smile rejuvenation via veneers, crowns, and bridges while also dealing with unexpected dental emergencies we all dread.
Sayers Dental Aesthetics & Implants serves local communities in Tarneit, Truganina, Werribee, Werribee South, Williams Landing, Wyndham Vale, Laverton, Laverton North, Altona, Altona Meadows, Altona North, Point Cook, Seabrook, Sanctuary Lakes and Alamanda.
We are located at 483 Sayers Road in Hoppers Crossing.
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