Ask Dr. Parker: How Safe Are Dental X-Rays?

July 22, 2015

Getting x-rays is a regular part of many dental visits, but some people have questions about the safety of these x-rays. You may wonder:

  • xrayShould children be getting dental x-rays?
  • What about pregnant women?
  • Will they have any cumulative effect over your lifetime?
  • Can you get cancer from dental x-rays?
  • Are there safer forms of x-rays?

Let’s take a look at each of these questions one by one.

Should Kids Get Dental X-Rays?

Parents understandably get concerned about exposing their kids to radiation. But as I explain to patients on a regular basis, kids often need more x-rays than adults because their mouths are constantly changing. Their jaws grow, they lose baby teeth and they get new ones.

It’s true that kids’ tissue is a bit more sensitive to radiation because it is still developing. However, the amount of radiation given off by a dental x-ray is minimal. Dental x-rays are safe for kids as long as dentists take proper precautions, such as:

  • Taking one instead of multiple images
  • Using the lowest radiation setting possible
  • Giving x-rays only when dentally necessary

Should Pregnant Women Get Dental X-Rays?

The safest answer is that you should avoid getting dental x-rays while pregnant. While the amount of radiation you are exposed to during a dental x-ray is minimal, it’s better to not expose your growing fetus to any radiation at all.

However, if you experience a dental emergency and x-rays are unavoidable, don’t be alarmed. X-rays have gotten much safer over the years, and the level of radiation has continued to decrease.

Will Dental X-Rays Affect Me Over my Lifetime?

No. A responsible dentist will not allow you to have more x-rays than your body can handle, and the amount of radiation you are exposed to is very low. The average person is exposed to more radiation from the sun over a year than from an x-ray.

Can You Get Cancer From Dental X-Rays?

Generally no, as long as your dentist is following the current guidelines for dental x-rays. It’s recommended that adults receive dental x-rays every two or three years. In this case, the amount of radiation is minimal and won’t cause any long-term harm.

Are There Safer Forms of Dental X-Rays?

A bitewing x-ray, the most common form of dental x-ray, produces 0.005 millisieverts of radiation, the equivalent of a day in the sun. But you can get twice that dose of radiation from a panoramic X-ray, which goes around your head.

Since bitewings have lower radiation, they may technically be safer — but as long as you aren’t getting any type of x-ray frequently, the increased radiation in panoramic x-rays shouldn’t be cause for concern.

If you have any other questions about x-rays and the precautions we take at AZ Family Dental, contact our team today to learn more about our safety standards.

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