X-Rays Are Safe and Important for Oral Health
People often wonder about dental x-ray safety. Easy question – it’s about exactly as safe as a walk in the park. We’ll explain that more later. First we want to make one thing absolutely clear.
We would never recommend something that was unsafe for our patients.
Understanding Dental X-Ray Safety Comparisons
“We are exposed to natural sources of radiation all the time. According to recent estimates, the average person in the U.S. receives an effective dose of about 3 mSv per year from natural radiation, which includes cosmic radiation from outer space.”
The radiation from dental x-rays we take once a year for most patients, commonly referred to as bitewing x-rays, add up to the equivalent of an afternoon in the park, or just over half the natural radiation from an average day just being in the cosmos.
It’s also significantly less than the security scanners at the airport or a few hours on a normal flight, so you should feel at least as confident about dental x-ray safety.
Why Not to Worry about Dental X-Ray Safety
There are two important reasons that dental x-ray safety should not be a concern for our patients.
- The risk of not catching a problem below the surface, like cavities, tooth decay, bone loss, constrained space for adult teeth to grow, and even tumors, is much greater than any risk related to radiation. If you skip the x-ray and instead wait for symptoms, the health risks go up, as do the cost and potential pain of fixing the problem. As described above, risk related to the x-ray itself is less than cross-country flight, or even any given day.
- Even though the risks are minimal, we still take every possible precaution. That means limiting the risk of “scatter radiation” to patients and staff to be “as low as reasonably achievable” (also known as ALARA). You’ll recognize the lead apron/bib that we place over you during the x-ray process. Just like kryptonite, lead prevents any harmful radiation from getting to the other side.