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Dental X-rays & Safety: Why they are Necessary, Why You Shouldn’t Worry

When you come into our dental office, we often start with a dental x-ray. This provides us a digital readout, so we can get a better look at what’s going on in your mouth — far more accurate and extensive than what we’d get with the naked eye. A dental x-ray gives us the data and insight we need to come up with an effective treatment plan. Without an x-ray, anything we try is just a rough guess at best.

Dental x-rays help identify a number of dental issues such as cavities, tooth decay, impacted teeth, and infections below the gum line. The fact is dental x-rays can be just as important as teeth cleanings and are usually part of a patient’s routine dental checkup, especially if we haven’t seen you in a while.

But are dental x-rays safe? After all, you might notice we leave the room every time we give one. You might also wonder about the heavy X-ray apron we use. If dental x-rays aren’t dangerous, why do we bother?

Low Radiation — Like a Ride in the Sky

First, understand that dental x-rays use an extremely low amount of radiation — so low they are safe for children and adults. In fact, you are exposed to lower radiation through an x-ray than you’d get on a two-hour plane ride. Plus, we use digital x-rays, which use an even lower amount of radiation than legacy approaches that are developed from film. There is little to no effect on the risk of cancer.

We do use an apron over your chest, abdomen, and pelvic region to prevent any unnecessary radiation exposure to your vital organs. And we leave the room because we do this day in day out, 7 to 10 times a day, every day. The risk is minimal, but it can add up overtime if you are a dental professional.

Pregnancy — the Exception to the Rule

We do caution against dental x-rays during pregnancy. If you are pregnant or concerned you might be, tell your dentist. It’s a bit controversial, but generally radiation is not considered safe for developing fetuses.

That being said, there are some cases we’re we do recommend dental x-rays during pregnancy — such as if you have a dental emergency or if you are in the middle of a procedure but recently found out you were pregnant. Women with dental issues or periodontal issues are at a higher risk for birth complications, so you don’t want to neglect your teeth. Talk to your dentist about the best way to proceed.

If you are planning to become pregnant, it may be a good idea to get any dental needs taken care of before conception. Talk to your dentist and come up with a plan.

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