Patients ask us about the radiation in dental x-rays all the time. We completely understand why – the idea of radiation is scary and people are concerned about both their own health and their family’s health.
Fortunately, the radiation from dental x-rays is so minimal that it barely registers in the total amount of radiation that you are exposed to every year as you go about your normal everyday life.
Some Facts About Radiation
To understand how minimal the amount of radiation is that is put out by dental x-rays, it helps to know some basics about how radiation is measured and the amount of radiation that other sources put out.
Radiation is measured using units called millirems (mrem). Every day, you are bombarded with radiation from the sun and even from the Earth itself. An average American is exposed to about 600 mrem every year.
Here are the radiation exposures caused by some common sources:
- Food and water – 30 mrem per year
- Cosmic radiation at sea level – 24 mrem per year
- Radiation from the Earth – 28 mrem per year
- Radioactivity in your own body – 40 mrem per year
- Radon in the average home – 200 mrem per year
In comparison, here are the average radiation exposures caused by common medical imaging procedures:
- Pelvic x-ray – 70 mrem
- Abdominal x-ray – 60 mrem
- Chest x-ray – 10 mrem
- Mammogram (2 views) – 72 mrem
- Full body CT scan – 1000 mrem
- Chest CT scan – 700 mrem
- Head CT scan – 200 mrem
Where do you think dental x-rays fit on that list?
The radiation exposure for traditional film dental x-rays is 9 mrem. At our Bridgeton, MO dental office, however, we use digital x-rays, which can deliver considerably less – only about 1.5 mrem.
Why Are Dental X-Rays Necessary?
We recognize that radiation exposure is cumulative, and we do still take precautions – for instance, we only take the minimal number of x-rays necessary for good diagnostics, and we still use shielding equipment to protect organs like your thyroid gland.
Dental x-rays, though, are probably the most useful diagnostic tool we have. They allow us to perform conservative, preventative dentistry – which is good news for you! When we can catch problems, like decay, in their earliest stages, the fixes are fast, easy, and inexpensive. Without x-rays, we would have to wait until the problem becomes visible – or painful. And we don’t want to see our patients in pain! By that point, the problem can be much more serious and much more difficult (and potentially expensive) to fix.
Call today to schedule your preventative examination.