How Much Radiation is in Dental X-Rays?

Your child is due for dental X-rays at his next dental appointment. Should you be concerned about the amount of radiation? Adam Postel, D.M.D., answers.

I’m concerned about radiation from dental X-rays; does my child really need them?

Radiation exposure from digital dental X-rays is far less than traditional film X-rays. It is important to make sure your dentist is using digital films along with protection in the form of a lead apron and thyroid collar. X-rays are also not necessary at each dental visit. Your dentist should be referring to American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Dental Association, and Food and Drug Administration guidelines as to when X-rays are necessary. “Because each patient is unique, the need for dental radiographs can be determined only after reviewing the patient’s medical and dental histories, completing a clinical examination, and assessing the patient’s vulnerability to environmental factors that affect oral health,” according to the AAPD.

It is important that every dental and health care professional weighs the risks versus benefits each time an X-ray is being prescribed, and it is important to stay up on technological advances to reduce radiation and protect patients.

As long as your dentist takes all of the above into account, if he is recommending X-rays, it is pertinent to giving an accurate diagnosis about dental health.

Digital X-Ray Radiation Compared to Everyday Scenarios

Radiation exposure is often measured in units called millirem (mrem). The amount of radiation you get from a single digital (bitewing) X-ray is .15mrem. Compare this to one round-trip flight from New York to California, which is 5mrem. This means that you get more than 33 times the amount of radiation going back and forth from the Big Apple to see the Hollywood sign than you do in one digital bitewing X-ray. Perhaps an even better comparison is that the average person is exposed to 35mrem of radiation from exposure to sunlight and other cosmic radiation per year.


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