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Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

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Dental services, like dental prophylaxis and oral cancer screenings, are some of the best ways to take care of your oral health. X-rays are also a preventative service, and they are invaluable since they can show:

  • Early decay or bone loss
  • The development of jaws and teeth
  • Issues with tooth roots
  • Hard/soft tissue deviations.

Some patients are worried about the risks of X-rays, since X-ray ionization can cause instability and damage of cellular structures. However, X-ray technology and safety has come a long way. Now, the benefits of dental X-rays outweigh the minimal risks. Here are a few ways your dentist—and his or her staff—will protect you at the office.

They Use Digital Imaging and High-Speed Film

Digital imaging devices have replaced many offices' old traditional X-rays. Digital imaging is known for its ease of use and instant results. In the past, it took a while to process X-rays. However, another great benefit of digital imaging is its improved safety. Because exposure times are so fast, patients aren't exposed to X-ray beams for a lengthy amount of time like they were in the past.

Digital imaging also allows dentists to use improved film speeds. High-quality film has larger silver halide crystals. Halides are light-sensitive chemicals. Because the crystals are larger, they are much more sensitive to the radiation, meaning that less radiation can be used for each exposure.

They Practice Individualized Care

X-rays aren't prescribed in a cookie-cutter fashion. If you've had X-rays taken at your previous 6-month visit, your dentist isn't going to expose you to the process unless there was a previous issue that needs a follow-up. If you have a certain condition, like a pregnancy, then your dentist may hold off on X-rays unless your OB-GYN okays them.

They Use Equipment with X-Ray Beam Restrictions

There are many pieces of the X-ray unit that are in place to protect you. One piece of the unit is the collimator, which is a lead plate with a hole for the X-ray beam to travel through. Collimation is a technique that restricts the shape and size of the X-ray beam. Besides collimation, X-ray units contain aluminum filters. These filters also restrict the diameter of the beam, so minimal tissue is exposed. The filters are placed on the X-ray unit's position indicator device (PID).

PIDs have long cones, or apertures, that the dental assistant will put near your mouth to take the images. Because the PIDs have longer cones, the X-ray beam is less likely to diverge. Very tiny amounts of the X-ray beam may scatter or deflect, but the lead apron and thyroid collar will protect you from scatter radiation.

For more information on X-ray safety or other dental services, contact a dentist in your local area.