If you think it’s better to skip the x-rays at your dentist’s office than to be exposed to radiation, you may be surprised to know that’s not the case. Exposure to any sources of radiation can eventually harm your body, but the amount of radiation emitted during dental x-rays is extremely small. Therefore, dental x-rays are considered safe.
Sources of radiation
You are exposed to radiation through many sources that you may not even realize. The sun, minerals in the soil, and home appliances all emit some levels of radiation. So completely avoiding radiation is difficult to achieve.
Advancements in dentistry have caused low radiation levels in today’s x-rays. Some of the new technologies include x-ray machines that target the radiation beam only on the small area being tested, faster x-ray films that require shorter amounts of radiation activity, and film holders that secure the film in your mouth so that repeat x-rays are not necessary. Also, full-body aprons that are lined with lead are used to further protect your body. Frequent x-ray machine checks are mandated by federal law, with analysis required every two years or less.
Purpose and frequency
Dentists recommend that most patients get one set of dental x-rays every two years. The amount of x-rays you need is determined by your level of risk for tooth decay and gum disease. X-rays show your teeth’s condition, their roots, jaw position, and the makeup of the bones in your face. This data can alert your dentist to gum disease, abscesses, and abnormal conditions.
Even though the risks of potentially harmful effects are very small from dental x-rays, the exposure to radiation does add up over your lifetime. Every bit of radiation you receive from all sources contributes to your exposure. It’s smart to be aware of the risks and minimize them when possible, but remember not to do so at the risk of your oral health.