X-Rays give your dentist an intimate, accurate glimpse into the health, structure, and makeup of your teeth. It’s vital for your dentist to be able to see exactly what is going on under the surface in order to be able to give you the best recommendation for treatment. But should you be concerned about the dose of radiation you are getting at the dentist?

Understanding Radiation

Radiation is a kind of electromagnetic wave that exists not only on earth, but also in the stars, including our sun. This is continually being generated, and every person on earth is exposed to some radiation every year. You can get a low dose of cosmic radiation just by going outside.

These electromagnetic waves have been harnessed by technology to create systems like X-ray machines, MRI scanners, and other devices that allow medical technology to “see through” the skin.

Effects of Radiation

The EPA warns that radiation exposure can cause things from cataracts to cancer to death, depending on the amount and frequency of the exposure. Ionizing radiation can cause changes to genetic makeup (our DNA), and this can alter the way a cell functions.

Measuring Radiation exposure

Radiation is measured with a unit called millisieverts (abbreviated mSv). In one day, the average person will be exposed to a dose of approximately 0.008 mSv of background cosmic radiation, adding up to a total of about 3 mSv per year, according to the American College of Radiology. There are many ways to increase your radiation exposure, such as flying in a plane, where being in the thinner atmosphere exposes a person to extra cosmic radiation. A flight from the east coast to the west coast, for instance, exposes a passenger in a commercial plane to approximately 0.035 mSv of cosmic radiation (or approximately 4 days worth of normal cosmic radiation at ground level, according to the CDC.

Amount of Radiation in Dental X-Rays

According to the American College of Radiology, the amount of radiation a person is exposed to during an intraoral x-ray is 0.005 millisieverts. For comparison, this is less than the approximate dose of cosmic radiation that each person experiences in a typical day.

So should you be worried about your dental x-rays? If airline pilots can safely be exposed to seven times this level on a daily basis, we don’t think you should be too worried about the dentist taking your x-rays once every 6 months. In fact, we think you should be more worried about the possible harm that could come to your teeth if skipping a recommended x-ray causes your dentist to not be able to accurately catch something while it’s early.

For your peace of mind, our dental clinic is very strict about following all the recommended procedures for your safety, including making sure that you are wearing your lead vest correctly to block all excess radiation and making sure that we only recommend doing x-rays when they are actually needed.

If hesitations about x-rays have been making you put off much-needed dental treatment, wait no longer! Schedule your appointment with us today!