Radiation Facts: Dangers of Dental X-Rays

There are a number of people today concerned with the dangers of radiation exposure that is associated with having dental x-rays.

There is an annual occupational exposure limit that has been set by the federal government. This limit is currently set at 5,000 mrem or millirems, which means that you can safely be exposed to any radiation limits that are below this level.

The average person is only exposed to around 350 mrem every year from background radiation sources such as flying on an airplane, living in a brick building and other sources.

Given the levels of background radiation, you would still need to endure close to 70 full mouth x-rays every year in order to reach the maximum exposure limit of 5,000 mrem.

It is important to understand that there are three major types of dental x-rays. These include a full mouth x-ray series, bitewing x-rays that are typically taken once each year and a panoramic x-ray.

Because x-rays for dental purposes are only aimed at specific points in the mouth and not the entire body, the amount of radiation from these x-rays is very low and radiation does not typically reach other areas of the body.

The average dental x-ray only produces about 5 rem and only delivers this radiation to the jaw. It would take approximately 2,000 dental x-rays to produce enough radiation to reach other areas of the body and cause damage.

The Journal of the American Dental Association has also stated that dentists can use higher voltages, faster films and better filters in order to produce shorter exposure periods. This would mean that your actual exposure to radiation would be much lower overall than the current rates.

In any procedure, particularly dental procedures, the danger will increase when older x-ray machines are used. Operators should be experienced in performing these procedures. Many patients simply feel that forgoing x-rays would be the safest choice but this is not necessarily true.

When doctors or dentists require x-rays for treatment, there really is no way to work around them. In addition, experienced and skilled dentists and technicians who know how to properly perform x-rays procedures and use the correct radiation dosage present a much safer procedure overall.

There are several benefits to having dental x-rays performed. They do help the dentist to properly diagnose and treat dental conditions, many of which could be life threatening. Dental x-rays will reveal broken teeth, broken bones and fractures, cavities, abscesses and diseases in the mouth that other procedures may miss.

There are a number of ways that you can significantly cut down on the risks associated with dental x-rays.

First, ensure that your dentist is not using older equipment as this can deliver more radiation than newer models on the market. If you are pregnant or think that you may be pregnant you should be certain to inform your dentist or hygienist of your condition. Panoramic film series x-rays deliver less radiation per procedure so if this is an option, it is certainly the safest one.

Overall, dental x-rays are not terribly unsafe, provided you do not have hundreds of them every year. If you are still concerned about the risks, speak with your dentist and learn more about the specific equipment that he or she uses as well as the various types of x-rays that your dental office offers.

  • Meh

    Dental x-rays are harmless you could spend an entire lifetime under a dental x-ray before you feel like an itch coming on. Be glad your not being treated with chemo therapy, an mrem is practically harmless to skin, however since a dental x-ray is designed to diagnose your teeth it is not designed to diagnose your body. It’s only logical to assume then, that is why your chest has to be shielded so that the particles from the beam don’t interfere with your primary organs.

    The best thing you could do as a dental patient is make sure they aim the device at your teeth 😛

  • Ron Ablang

    This seems to be about 50-50 depending on which
    dentist site you visit.

    More research is needed.

  • Tom Yother

    I lost two of my molars because the x-rays can not penetrate
    my metal caps. As far as detecting cavities with x-rays with
    crowns it is useless. My dentist can see the gum line where the cap meets and see any suspect decay. This info is always left out of any article.

  • http://www.dentistsatnorthgate.com/dontfollow Edmonton Dentist

    In my own opinion, X-rays should not be treated as a disastrous event when having a regular visit with your dentist. This procedure is only focusing unto your mouth and not the entire body, so it is safe. Certain aspects are given to a certified dentist. Safety measure are also provided by them to avoid problems with their patient’s health.

  • cb

    You are saying the brain is not a ‘primary organ’?? —“that is why your chest has to be shielded so that the particles from the beam don’t interfere with your primary organs.” —-

    Only the mouth, not the ‘brain’?? —“This procedure is only focusing unto your mouth and not the entire body, so it is safe”—