Dental X-Rays and Radiation Exposure

Dental X-Rays and Radiation Exposure

Once a year, your friendly dental hygienist cheerfully exclaims that it is time to update your x-rays.  Yayyy, you think……Ok, probably not.  We know that these x-rays take extra time out of your appointment, they are generally uncomfortable, and yes, they expose you to a small dose of radiation.  However, they are of a great benefit to you as patients, and to us as providers.

Why Are Dental X-Rays so Important?
These images allow us to see cavities that cannot be seen clinically.  They also allow us to see the supporting structures of the teeth, making them a critical tool in the diagnosis of periodontal (gum) disease, oral infections, bone disease, and even some tumors.

Now, I can’t give any excuses for those films that seem so incredibly large inside your mouth, the seconds that seem like hours as you sit there, waiting for that “beep!…”  But I do want to give you some information about the #1 reason patients deny x-rays — RADIATION EXPOSURE.

How NFD Minimizes Your Risk:

  • First, we use digital x-rays — digital technology uses 80-90% less radiation than traditional methods.
  • Our equipment is very targeted and focused — with the help of the lead apron, a very small part of your body receives the dose of radiation.
  • We determine each patient’s need for x-rays, both quantity and frequency, based on his or her dental history, medical history, and clinical presentation.  If you’re 40 years old, have never had a cavity, and brush, floss, and rinse twice a day (that’s all of you, right?), we may lengthen your check-up x-ray interval.  Someone with a more complex dental history may need more x-rays more often.  If you are, or could be, pregnant, we will refrain from taking x-rays.

And to put it all into perspective…

Every year most patients get 4 bitewing x-rays.  The radiation dose received is less than half of what you receive in a day from nature alone.  It’s also about the same dose of radiation you will receive by eating 300 bananas!

There is a great website that calculates the background radiation you are exposed to annually… The American Nuclear Society Radiation Dose Chart.  My dose is shown below!  (BTW if you live in Columbus, you’re at approx. 1000 ft above sea level, and there are no nuclear or coal power plants within 50 miles of us… now you don’t have to google it!)

And if you’re a visual person, this chart provides a great illustration of relative radiation doses.  A portion of the image is shown on the right.

Hopefully this helped you to weigh the definitive benefits of dental x-rays with the relative risks. If you truly have any hesitations about receiving dental x-rays, we are happy to discuss the topic with you, taking your specific situation into account.

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