Are dental x-rays safe? Are dental x-rays necessary?

November 28, 2018

X-rays in La Grange, IL

People frequently ask us, "Are dental x-rays safe?", "Are dental x-rays necessary?"

X-ray images are among the most valuable tools a dentist has for keeping your mouth and teeth healthy. They are also called dental radiographs. For adults, dental X-rays are used to:

For children and teens, X-rays are used to find decay and damage to fillings, and to monitor tooth growth and development. They are also used to:

Stated simply, catching a small problem early can prevent major problems later on. The images below can clearly show a very typical scenario. Image A is what we would see upon visible examination. Image B would allow us to diagnose the presence of significant decay. Image C shows how decay penetrates deep into the tooth. Image D shows bleeding from the pulp or chamber where the nerves and blood vessels are housed. Treatment once the nerve is involved is Root Canal Treatment. Only then can restoration of the lost tooth structure can be initiated.

Root Canal Treatment in La Grange, IL

It is unfortunate that we see this far more often than we should. Sometimes a tooth that has decay becomes sensitive, or painful. Unfortunately that is not always the case. A tooth can abscess and become infected with little to no symptoms. These unfortunate series of events can usually be avoided with routine diagnostic x-rays.

Less Radiation for Safer X-Rays

Several changes have reduced radiation exposure in dental X-rays through the years:

La Grange Dental Associates follows the standard of care in exposing individuals to dental x-rays. For a patient with average risk for dental disease, a Full Mouth set or Panoramic x-ray is performed once every 3-5 years depending on individual needs. Bitewing x-rays are the more routine cavity detecting x-rays. Although many insurance companies provide a benefit for these every 6 months, we at La Grange Dental Associates feel that bitewing x-rays are sufficient only 1 time per year. That recommendation may vary for those with higher than usual or lower than usual risk for dental disease.

The scientific unit of measurement for radiation dose, commonly referred to as effective dose, is the millisievert (mSv) . Other radiation dose measurement units include rad, rem, roentgen, sievert, and gray.

Naturally-occurring "Background" Radiation Exposure

We are exposed to radiation from natural sources all the time. According to recent estimates, the average person in the U.S. receives an effective dose of about 3 mSv per year from naturally occurring radioactive materials and cosmic radiation from outer space.

These natural "background" doses vary throughout the country. People living in the plateaus of Colorado or New Mexico receive about 1.5 mSv more per year than those living near sea level. The added dose from cosmic rays during a coast-to-coast round trip flight in a commercial airplane is about 0.03 mSv. Altitude plays a big role, but the largest source of background radiation comes from radon gas in our homes (about 2 mSv per year). Like other sources of background radiation, exposure to radon varies widely from one part of the country to another.To explain it in simple terms, we can compare the radiation exposure from one chest x-ray as equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure one experiences from our natural surroundings in 10 days.

Dental x-rays provide a wealth of information not visible to the eye. Most times, routine diagnostic dental-rays can catch early decay and other problems, eliminating the discomfort and cost of treating more extensive dental disease. With the negligible dose needed to obtain a dental x-rays, it is clear that the value heavily outweighs the risks. Always consult with your dentist at La Grange Dental Associates regarding your individual risks and benefits when determining the frequency that is best for you.

Back to Blog

Sign up for a free consultation!

La Grange Dental Associates
4711 Willow Springs Road La Grange IL 60525
1-708-354-1990 1-708-354-2646 USD Cash, Check, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Most Dental Insurance Plans, CareCredit, Lending Club Patient Solutions, Prosper Healthcare Lending
Joseph Balice Doctor
John Micaletti Doctor
Deanna Registered Dental Hygienists
Lisa Registered Dental Hygienists