Dental X-Rays

Are Dental X-Rays Taken by Your Dentist Safe?


Recent articles and studies have stated their concerns about dental x-rays and their effects on patients.  Some have gone as far as stating a link between dental x-rays and certain tumors.  But experts agree that these studies are deeply flawed in not only their conclusions, but also in their methods.

So are dental x-rays taken by your dentist safe?  Simply put, the answer is: yes they are.  Out of the different types of x-rays used in medicine, dental x-rays have the lowest radiation dose of them all.  To give you an example of how low this dose is, they can be compared to the amount of radiation a person receives from background radiation (radiation from air, water, food, soil, space, etc).  The average person is exposed to approximately 3,600 microsieverts of radiation in a year from background radiation. Typically, on a routine examination, your dentist will take 2-4 bitewing x-rays to look for cavities between your teeth, if needed.  These x-rays emit 2-3 microsieverts of radiation.  That works out to almost 0.08% of radiation from dental x-rays when compared to radiation from the environment.

Furthermore, dental x-rays taken by your dentist are restricted to the area they are being used.  Because of filters and the focus of the x-ray beam, the radiation is confined to the teeth that are being examined.  Therefore, there should be no worries about the x-rays affecting other areas of your body.  In fact, the use of lead aprons is no longer necessary to cover the remainder of the body.  It has been found that there is little to no measurable difference in radiation when wearing a lead apron compared to not wearing one.

Nowadays, more and more dentists are using digital dental x-rays instead of the standard film x-rays.  This also is leading to a decrease in the amount of radiation a patients experiences in the dentist’s chair.  Some digital manufacturers recommend using 20% of the dose used for film x-rays.  So if your dentist is using digital x-rays, then you are also receiving less dose of x-rays than you have in the past.  And as technology continues to advance, this will only get better over time.

Now just because dental x-rays are safe does not mean that your dentist should take x-rays whenever they feel like it.  Even though the radiation from dental x-rays is minimal, the amount of radiation a person is exposed to should always be minimized.  Therefore, it is important for the dentist to determine if x-rays are necessary and should only take them when they are.  But as always, if you have any concerns or questions, then it is best to sit down with your local dentist to discuss them.

By Dr. Athar Butt
Dentist Blog