The Truth About Dental X-rays

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August 10, 2011 by christine

Patients will sometimes express their concerns to me about having dental x-rays taken. The largest source of apprehension seems to come from worry of over exposure to radiation. I would like to take this opportunity to explain why we take dental x-rays as well as look at the radiation concern and what we do at The Tooth Doctors to minimize your exposure.

WHY WE TAKE DENTAL X-RAYS

We take dental x-rays because quite simply they are the best diagnostic tool available to dentists. X-rays show what the naked eye cannot see.  They can detect the presence of gum disease and the presence of abscesses and other abnormalities that may otherwise go undetected.   Neglecting to take necessary dental x-rays results in limited information for our dentists, leading to an incomplete and compromised oral health diagnosis. As a result, this may lead to a more complicated and therefore expensive procedure(s) at a later date.

RADIATION CONCERN

Just the mention of radiation brings to mind all sorts of unpleasant things from bombs to cancer. We are routinely exposed to small amounts of radiation on a daily basis. X-rays are a type of radiation that is widely used in the medical and dental field to diagnosis and treat many conditions.

To put the risk of radiation exposure in context, it is interesting to note that smoke detectors, cooking with natural gas and even flying in an airplane are typical sources of exposure to small amounts of radiation. It would take 20 dental x-rays to equal the exposure of one chest x-ray or 72 dental x-rays to equal the exposure of smoking 1 pack of cigarettes or 4000 dental x-rays to equal the exposure of a CT scan.

HOW WE MINIMIZE EXPOSURE AT THE TOOTH DOCTORS

    All of our staff have been fully trained in taking x-rays and are HARP (Healing Arts Radiation Protection) certified.
    We take x-rays based on the needs of our patients. We make every attempt to limit your exposure to radiation – however minimal it may be.
    If a new patient has had dental x-rays taken recently in another office we will make every attempt to obtain those x-rays.
    We are pleased to offer digital x-rays, which use about 80% less radiation than conventional dental x-rays.
    We always use shielding (lead apron with thyroid collar) to protect the patient’s exposure to scatter radiation.

As with many things, dental x-rays come with both risks and benefits. The largest benefit of dental x-rays is that they allow for swift and accurate diagnosis of dental concerns allowing for proper, comprehensive treatment. The risk involved is tiny when compared to the huge diagnostic benefit.
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