Dental X-rays are a common procedure in dentistry, used to diagnose and treat dental issues. However, it is common for patients to question the safety of dental X-rays. In this article, we will explore the truth behind dental X-rays and the safety concerns surrounding them.
What are Dental X-rays?
Dental X-rays are diagnostic imaging tools used to identify problems with teeth, gums, and the jawbone. These X-rays use low levels of radiation to capture images of the inside of your mouth, showing your dentist any underlying issues not visible during a regular dental examination.
Types of Dental X-Rays
There are several types of dental X-rays, each providing different information to the dentist. These include:
- Bitewing X-rays – these X-rays show the upper and lower molars’ biting surfaces, commonly used to diagnose cavities.
- Periapical X-rays – these X-rays display the entire tooth’s extent, from the crown to the tooth’s root, and surrounding bone.
- Panoramic X-rays – these X-rays provide a more comprehensive view of the mouth, displaying all teeth’ upper and lower jaws and surrounding tissues.
- Cephalometric X-rays – used to evaluate teeth’ orientation and the relationship between the jaws and other facial structures.
Dental X-rays Safety Concerns
There are genuine safety concerns surrounding dental X-rays. Due to the X-rays’ ionizing radiation, some patients worry that they may be exposed to potentially harmful radiation levels. Let’s dive deeper into these concerns.
The amount of Radiation during a Dental X-ray
One common concern is the amount of exposure to ionizing radiation during a dental X-ray. The good news is that dental X-rays use low levels of ionizing radiation, so the exposure is minimal. The radiation exposure from a dental x-ray is only 0.005 to 0.01 millisieverts (mSv), which is equivalent to about one day of background radiation in a typical environment. Compared to medical X-rays, dental X-rays expose you to a much lower dose of radiation.
The Use of Lead Aprons
Prior to taking any X-rays, your dentist will provide you with a lead apron to wear during the procedure. The lead apron helps protect your body from unnecessary radiation exposure.
X-Rays and Pregnancy
Pregnant women’s primary concern is radiation exposure and how it might affect their unborn child. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, let your dentist know before taking dental X-rays. Your dentist may recommend deferring non-urgent X-rays or using alternative diagnostic methods if necessary.
When are Dental X-rays Required?
Even though dental X-rays may expose you to low levels of radiation, they are crucial diagnostic tools allowing dentists to diagnose and treat certain dental problems. It may be necessary for your dentist to take X-rays to accomplish the following:
- Diagnose underlying dental issues, such as cavities, impacted teeth, and gum disease.
- Create a treatment plan, such as braces, dentures, root canals, and implants.
- Monitor the progress of dental treatments.
Are Dental X-rays Safe for Children?
Children generally have thinner and more sensitive gum tissues and nerves than adults. However, dental X-rays for children are safe and require just a little more caution, particularly when it comes to reducing radiation exposure. Your dentist will consider all the factors involved and limit the number of X-rays your child receives accordingly.
The Bottom Line
Dental X-rays are a safe diagnostic tool for evaluating dental problems. The amount of radiation exposure from dental X-rays is negligible, particularly when patients take appropriate precautions such as wearing lead aprons. Limiting the number of X-rays taken and deferring non-urgent X-rays is recommended for pregnant women. Nonetheless, dental X-rays remain crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment of dental problems while minimizing the negative effects.
Common Questions and Answers on Dental X-rays Safety
- Q: Can dental X-rays cause cancer?
- A: Dental X-rays use low levels of radiation, and the amount of exposure is minimal. Studies indicate that dental X-rays do not increase the risk of developing cancer.
- Q: How often should you have dental X-rays?
- A: The frequency of dental X-rays depends on your dental needs. For most patients, dental X-rays are required once a year.
- Q: Do dental X-rays hurt?
- A: Dental X-rays do not hurt, and the procedure is usually over in a few minutes.
- Medline Plus. (2019). Dental X-rays. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002311.htm.
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Dental X-rays. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dental-x-rays/about/pac-20393415.
- American Dental Association. (2021). Dental X-rays. Retrieved from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/x/x-rays.