If X-ray comes with risks, why have dental X-ray taken at all?
Dental X-ray images are a dentist’s most valuable diagnostic tool that is considered extremely safe. When a dentist recommends a patient to take an X-ray, it’s because there are health benefits that can’t be provided without it. Dental X-rays are used to diagnose dental health issues that need attention. Left unattended, these dental health issues could cause bigger health problems that far outweigh potential exposure to the relatively low amount of radiation from the digital X-ray technology. In the current era, digital dental x-rays are used by almost all dental professionals. They have very low doses of radiation, producing just a fraction of what you are exposed to in other imaging procedures.
Benefits of dental x-ray are that it is an image that provides us with information about things we can’t see under the gums, under fillings, and in between your teeth. For example, it could reveal small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings, infections in the bone (eg: abscess, cyst), impacted tooth, periodontal disease (surrounding structures of the teeth – eg: bone loss), developmental abnormalities, abnormal growth and even some types of tumours.
When dental x-rays are performed with adequate safety precautions like usage of digital radiography with low radiation dose, by using a film holder, by covering the patient from the neck to the knees with a lead-lined full-body apron, and with regular inspections and licensing to check the X-ray machines on accuracy and safety of the machine, there will be very little cause for concern. A routine examination with four bitewing x-rays (a type of dental x-ray) exposes you to roughly the same amount of radiation you will experience during one to two hours on an airplane or about the same amount of radiation from our TVs and over the course of spending a day in the sun (solar radiation).
According to the American Dental Association, having many dental restorations is one factor contributing to a higher risk of cavities and the recommendation is to have check-up X-rays at 6-18 month intervals. In a recent presentation, Dr. Anthony Pogrel, Professor and Chairman of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department at The University of California, San Francisco(UCSF), compared the absorbed radiation of dental X-rays to other natural sources. Each individual is exposed to 3,000 Microsievert(µSv) annually by just living in the U.S. While a typical cross-country airplane flight exposes travelers to 20 µSv compared to a digital dental panoramic X-ray which only exposes patients to about 5 µSv. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a yearly dose of 6200 µSv from all radiation sources has not shown to cause humans any harm.
Therefore, dental X-rays are absolutely the safest type of medical X-ray procedures performed, so don’t let an unfounded fear of dental radiation stop you from getting the best preventive and diagnostic dental care available. However, the decision on taking dental x-rays on any individual is based on the needs and requirement.
About The Contributor
Dr. Yogesh is a diligent dentist at Dutamas Dental Clinic with 4 years of extensive experience in oral and maxillofacial surgery and paediatric dentistry. Dr. Yogesh initially spoke to us about nitrous oxide or The Laughing Gas to help with your anxiety. Since then, Dr. Yogesh has been our contributor by writing articles to help educate the public and spread awareness regarding dental health. Read her other articles here:
Dutamas Dental Clinic
A3-1-8, Publika, Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-6206 3554
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All images, unless stated otherwise, courtesy of Dutamas Dental Clinic. Featured image via Odonto-Med.