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Are Dental X-Rays safe?

This one is easy.  Yes!

Ok, for all you non-believers out there here’s some cold hard facts.  And no I don’t mean Beliebers, that’s another type of person entirely.  I’m a Beliemer myself.  Go Hogs.  Anyway back to the facts.  Now, I’m only going into the radiographs taken at your standard general practice dentistry office.  There is a whole other lecture to be opened up on Cone-Beam CTs, but I will leave that to the oral surgeons, endodontists, and periodontists.  The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using the minimum effective dose rule when prescribing radiographs in the dental office.   This basically means we are only going to use as much radiation as necessary to get maximum results.  For most people, this means bitewing radiographs once a year and a panoramic or full mouth radiographs every 5 years.  These are the standard radiographs used to diagnose and treat cavities, periodontal disease, and non-symptomatic pathologies.  Sometimes extraneous radiographs must be taken if a patient is in pain or more evidence is needed for treatment.  These are usually the periapical radiographs which show the entire root of the tooth.

So back to the original question, are dental x-rays or radiographs safe?  To answer this question, I’m going to give you some reference as to how much radiation you are exposed to when you have a single digital radiograph taken.  Digital is an important word here because research has shown that this technology has drastically reduced the amount of radiation exposed to patients.  This is one of the great advantages of digital dentistry and why we use them exclusively.  So on any given day a person is exposed to 10 times the radiation as a digital radiograph.  This is just natural radiation that exists on earth.  An airplane flight can net you up to 10 times the radiation per hour of flight.  A chest x-ray is up to 400 times the radiation.  Mammogram is up to 11,000 times the radiation.  CT scans are up to 12,000 times the radiation.  It’s important to note that this is not the CT scan that is performed in dentistry.  This is the kind that is done in the hospital or under physician’s care.  Cone-Beam CTs are much more limited in scope and have significantly less radiation exposure.

With all this being said, if you are concerned about your radiation exposure, discuss with your dentist a plan to provide the best treatment while limiting exposure.  The dentist should be able to explain your cavity or periodontal risk and an appropriate regimen.

To make this blog a little more fun and award those of you out there reading, I’m going to give a free high end Oral-B electric toothbrush to the first person to post on Holman Family Dentistry’s Facebook wall that you read this post.

Dr. H

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