Are You Getting Too Much Radiation from Dental X-Rays?
People are becoming more and more conscious about the amount of radiation they are exposed to on a daily basis. So naturally, there is some concern about the exposure to radiation during routine dental x-rays. We feel it is great that our patients our conscious about keeping their families safe from additional radiation, but it is equally as important to stay educated about the reasons why x-rays are recommended and the consequences of forgoing the standards set by the American Dental Association.
Bitewing x-rays are recommended once per year and are used to check between the teeth, underneath restorations, and diagnose if any issues have begun that are unseen during the clinical exam. Panoramic x-rays are typically recommended every 5 years and are used to diagnose any issues or pathologies in the mandible (lower jaw) or maxilla (upper jaw). The ADA (American Dental Association) states that “dentistry represents a minor contribution to the total exposure from all sources (about 0.2 percent).” While there are many valid medical reasons for radiation, the ADA also states “the majority of manmade radiation exposure is medical-related” and it “is estimated that dental X-rays contribute approximately one percent of the total dose of exposure in health care settings.” This minor additional exposure to radiation that dentists recommend can go a long way in early diagnosis and treatment of any issues. This makes treatment less invasive, less painful, and less expensive to patients.
Even with such low rates of exposure in the dental office, we take other precautions to keep the levels of radiation as low as possible. By using digital x-rays we are able to reduce the exposure intensity while taking x-rays when compared to the older or traditional x-rays. For each bitewing x-ray we place a lead apron with a thyroid collar over the patient for additional protection. However, after an episode of “The Dr. Oz Show” there has been some concern over not using a vest with a thyroid collar for our panoramic x-rays. We understand the fears some people may have, but using a thyroid collar to take a panoramic x-ray would block out essential structures and hurt the diagnostic value. We feel the clinical value the x-ray provides more than outweighs any additional exposure you may receive.
Dental and medical professionals alike have carefully weigh the risks and rewards of different x-rays that are recommended for diagnosing and treating problems. These recommendations have been named the standard of care by our professional organizations because they balance the benefits the patient may receive with any potential danger to you. But looking at the overall exposure the average dental patient receives during routine dental care, our recommended dental x-rays provide much more benefit than risk regarding your overall health.