Dental X-rays, Safe or Not?

Most individuals understand the need of getting regular dental x-rays and know that they are a standard part of any checkup. The question of whether or not these X-rays are safe is still asked from time to time. The simple response is yes, but more explanation may be of greater use. In comparison to medical X-rays, the quantity of radiation exposure during a dental X-ray is quite low.

A dental checkup does not use nearly as much radiation exposure as a medical procedure would. Dental x-rays, for instance, expose patients to less radiation than a plane ride and approximately the same amount as spending a day in the sunshine. With a dental X-ray, the patient’s mouth and teeth are the only parts of their body that come into direct contact with the radiation; the rest of them are shielded by a lead vest.

The American Dental Association (ADA) has implemented a safety policy known as ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Allowable) to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure. Other scientific groups, such as the Center for Devices and Radiological Health of the US Food and Drug Administration, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, and the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, have also published guidelines or rules on the safe, appropriate, and effective use of X-rays in dentistry.

To sum up, it is clear that dental X-ray safety is a hot topic of debate.

The Takeaway: Dental x-rays have a very high safety profile.
It is the radiation exposure from dental x-rays that causes the most anxiety about their security. These techniques, when carried out correctly, produce little radiation.

Radiation Dose Comparisons
X-rays taken during a dental examination. The Typical Millisievert Dose (mSv):

  • 0.004 Bitewing (4 images)
  • Serie de 0.007 Mouth Full (18 images)
  • Oral surgery 0.035
  • Cone Beam Scans 0.009
  • Abdominal CT at 8.00
  • Imaging Procedures: Mammogram 7.7
  • PET Scan 0.700

The NCRP estimates that the average yearly radiation dosage per person in the United States is 6.2 mSv due to environmental exposure. This is the same quantity as in 7,000 dental Cone Beam (CBCT) scans, 9 mammograms, or 15,500 sets of Bitewing x-rays. Dental x-rays pose no threat to patients, as you can see.

If you are a new patient, we recommend taking X-rays to have a look at your teeth and gums to see their current condition and provide a point of reference for spotting any changes that may arise later. In order to check for new cavities, assess your gum health, and monitor the development of your teeth, annual X-rays may be necessary.