Are Dental X-Rays Dangerous?

The word “radiation” inspires fear. Whether people worry about nuclear power plants breaking down or cancer or radiation sickness, they know that x-rays use radiation and they naturally worry about side effects. As your Carmichael dentists, we don’t want you to be afraid of dental x-rays. It is extremely uncommon for dental x-rays to cause any complications. To the contrary, the x-rays we provide serve to help us recognize the early signs of disease, decay and oral disorders. X-ray images help us make good decisions every day for our Carmichael patients at the Marconi Dental Group.

The Facts About Dental X-Rays

These are the facts about dental x-rays:

  • They feature the lowest radiation dose compared to other medical x-rays. The American Dental Association (ADA) states that “dental x-rays contribute approximately one percent of the total dose of exposure in health care settings.”
  • Ordinary background radiation or the amount of radiation received in a typical airline flight are both greater than your typical dental x-ray.
  • In our experience, decision-making is easier and improved when both the dentist and the patient can see and discuss the results of dental x-rays.

In addition, the Marconi Dental Group wants to make dental x-rays as safe as possible. We follow all of the procedures recommended by the ADA, including lead protective gear for patients and protocols that limit the already tiny doses used to make the images. Plus, modern digital x-ray systems use far less radiation than older film-based x-ray images. That means the new equipment is even safer and more effective.

What About Those Internet Reports?

Still, various media outlets write “scare stories” about x-rays and point to certain studies that indicate a slightly increased risk for certain types of cancer from dental x-rays. Here are some things to think about regarding these studies:

1. The participants had to self-report about their x-ray procedures. Imagine if someone asked you how often you visited the dentist forty years ago and how many x-rays you received. What sort of answer would you give? Most of these studies relied on this type of data collection. When actual dental files are compared with patient recall, most people overstate the number of x-rays or procedures they have received.

2. Negative x-ray studies often include the risk from obsolete x-ray technology. One study even concluded: “Exposure to some dental x-rays performed in the past, when radiation exposure was greater than in the current era, appears to be associated with an increased risk of intracranial meningioma.” (Italics ours) We believe these studies have little benefit for the dental patient. It would be similar to comparing automobile safety forty years ago with automobile safety today. Older cars would certainly be considered “more dangerous.” How does the media cover such a report? The various media outlets don’t say: “Report Says Old Cars are Dangerous!” They declare: “Report States Cars are Dangerous!”

Such studies do remind dentists of the need for caution and continual improvement in x-ray techniques. They do not provide a snapshot of current dental x-ray practice and the excellent safety record of the many dental offices around the United States.

If You Still Have Concerns

The Marconi Dental Group makes good use of x-rays in our Carmichael practice. If you have concerns about your x-ray exposure, please discuss this with our dentists or staff. We are happy to provide you with more information in advance of your procedures or on the day of your visit. Making you comfortable and informed while providing quality dental care is the daily goal of the Marconi Dental Group.

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