One of the most common things done at a routine dental visit is having x-rays. It’s those x-rays that allow the dentist to take a closer look at the overall health of your teeth to detect damage and disease affecting the roots and bones of your mouth, and to look for any possible cavities – things that aren’t visible during a routine visual exam. Sounds good, right? But then we cover you in a heavy vest and ask pregnant women to forgo x-rays which prompts lots of questions from our patients about dental x-ray safety. So, let’s talk about it!
The worrisome part about dental x-rays is the exposure to radiation. Radiation is a scary term, but the reality is that we are exposed to radiation in our everyday lives, not just during x-rays. Radiation is measured in units called rems. The doses in the medical world are so small, they are measured in millirems, or “mrem” which is just one thousandth of a rem. Below are some examples of amounts of radiation we’re exposed to in our everyday lives*:
- Airport scan is 0.001 mrem.
- Eating a banana is 0.01 mrem.
- Natural radiation in the human body is 0.04 mrem.
- Average flight from New York to Los Angeles is 4 mrem.
- Average chest x-ray is 10 mrem
- Average mammogram is 40 mrem.
- Annual cosmic radiation living in Denver is 50 mrem.
- An average (full body) CT scan is 1000 mrem.
On average, you can expect to be exposed to somewhere between 200-360 mrem throughout a year, far below the fatal level which is one million mrem.
Dental X-Ray Safety
So how much radiation are you exposed to with dental x-rays? Just a little – a digital dental x-ray averages 0.4 mrem, and a film dental x-ray averages 0.6-0.9 mrem. Flying cross-country exposes a person to a far higher amount of radiation than digital or film dental x-rays!
While dental x-rays do expose patients to a small dose of radiation, that dose is so small the benefits outweigh the harmful effects. Dental x-rays equip the dental team with much needed information about your teeth and gums, information that can’t be seen by the naked eye. When we cover you with a vest and ask pregnant women to forgo x-rays for one visit, it’s not because the x-rays are dangerous, it’s simply an effort to expose you to as little radiation as possible in your lifetime. So, the next time your dentist tells you it’s time for x-rays, don’t worry, they really are safe!
Now that you better understand dental x-ray safety, there’s no excuse to avoid the dentist. Call us and get you next check-up scheduled. We are here to help you have the best health you can achieve, starting with oral health. Find a dentist near you today for questions or to get scheduled today!
*Data compiled from a number of sources including, Environmental Protection Agency, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the American Dental Association.