Wait, I don’t want that dental X-ray.

Do you get a little nervous when you hear that X-rays are needed? While most people take getting X-rays with ease, some people have concerns about radiation and the risk of getting cancer from too much exposure. This is a valid concern we want to address in this month’s blog. 

Throughout our lives, the need for imaging is present. Whether an X-ray for a suspected broken bone, an MRI for that bad knee, a mammogram for preventative care, or digital X-rays at the dentist. But X-rays are one of the few types of imaging needed with regularity. And while they emit very low levels of radiation, there is radiation nonetheless. Is it enough to be concerned about? Let’s discuss this. 

Dental X-rays are Essential to the Dentist

X-rays allow the dentist to see bones, tissue, and between the teeth – a place where cavities like to hide. With a panoramic X-ray (the one that goes around your head), your dentist can also see your jaws, temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and sinuses. Dr. Andy recalls one patient that had lesions that were detected on imaging. He referred them to a specialist for further evaluation. It turned out that those lesions were cancerous, but because the patient routinely received their X-rays, they were caught early, and there’s a happy ending to the story. 

How Much Radiation is in a Dental X-ray?

Radiation exposure is all around us. A set of 4 bitewing X-rays (which you typically get every year) will expose you to .005 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation, and a panoramic X-ray, which you get every three years, is .007mSv. According to energy.gov, the average American receives 6.2mSv every year. Around half of that is from exposure to the natural environment (soil, water, etc.), and the balance is from other sources. For example, spend a day outside and get about .005mSv. How many of those do you do in a year? Drink water? Well, that exposes you to around .005mrem per year. Do you cook with gas or heat your home with it? Well, that’s .009mrem per year. Radiation is even in the soil – exposing you to .21 mSv annually. 

Digital X-rays are Different.

Dental imaging has changed over the years. Most dentists now use digital X-rays, which reduce your exposure to radiation by around 90 percent. Plus, they are fast and much better quality, allowing your dentist to pinpoint issues quickly. And the speed factor gives you more time to chit-chat about fun stuff with Dr. Andy (you’re welcome).

Your health is a top priority. We like to be transparent with our patients and always invite questions or concerns. If this topic has been brought up for you, please give us a call or talk to Dr. Andy at your next appointment.

We look forward to seeing you soon. 

Living Dental Health