Safety of Dental X-rays

In a previous post I have described different types of x-rays that we take for children to diagnose potential problems in their oral cavity.  A natural concern that a lot of parents have is the amount of radiation that their children become exposed to as a result of having their x-rays taken.

For the average adult patient, a “full mouth series” of intraoral  x-rays consists of 18-22 films.  This series is taken the very first time the patient is seen at the office and then every 3 to 5 years after that.  The radiation emitted from this entire series is equivalent to three days of normal background radiation exposure (what you get exposed to just from walking around).  Another good comparison is the amount of radiation one receives from traveling in an airplane cross-country.  Adults also receive 4 bitewing x-rays each time they go to the dentist for six months check-ups.

For children, the number of x-rays for each dental visit typically ranges between 2 to 6.  This means that the radiation that they’re exposed to is extremely small.  However, because children’s developing organs and cells are more sensitive to radiation, proper techniques and precautions should still be practiced.  These include the following:

1.  Digital X-ray:  Digital x-rays reduce the radiation exposed by 50 to 80 percent compared to traditional dental x-rays.  Digital x-rays also allow dentists to enhance different areas of the image for better viewing.  Additional benefits include ease of transferring (email, print, save on a disk, etc) and the elimination developing chemicals as an environmentally hazardous waste.

2.  Shielding Aprons:  These are less important today than they used to be.  The aprons are meant to prevent exposure to the rest of the body from scattered x-rays that may escape from the x-ray tube.  With modern machines scattered radiation has virtually been eliminated already.  For children, however, lead aprons should still be used due to immature developing cells.

3.  Using a film holder:  In the old days patients used to have to hold the films with their fingers which causes their hands to become exposed to radiation as well.  Nowadays most offices use plastic or foam film holders to minimize exposure.

4.  Good technique:  Good x-ray techniques are paramount to keeping radiation exposure to a minimum.  Experience and proper training are required to angle the x-ray cone at the right angle to catch the correct area of the tooth.  Because behavioral and cooperation level in children can oftentimes be challenging, sometimes  it takes two or three tries to get the right image.

Here at Red Rock Kids Dental, our traditional as well as panoramic x-ray machines are both digital which lowers the radiation by 50 to 80%/.  By always using lead aprons and film holders, we do our best to minimize radiation exposure to our patients while still accurately diagnose and maintain their oral health.  Our dental assistant, Candace, is always kind and gentle with children.  By placing the film gently into their mouths and giving them proper instructions, most of our patient cooperate with little trouble so that we get a perfect image on our first try.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the safety of dental x-rays.  Feel free to contact me at my Las Vegas Pediatric Dental Office at (702)242-2436.

Digital Panoramic Machine

Lead Apron with Thyroid Collar

Good techniques and using a film holder