Patients often ask ‘are dental x-rays safe’? Dental x-rays, also known as radiographs, are one of the most useful and powerful tools at a dentist’s disposal. They allow them to image the condition of the teeth and jaw below the gum where it’s otherwise impossible to see. These images will enable them to view undetected problems, predict future complications, and make better decisions about treatment plans.
Yet, many patients have concerns. X-ray radiation can be harmful. Too much of it can cause serious damage. Are they at risk when they get dental x-rays? Do these images harm them?
Let’s take a look.
What is the risk of dental X-rays?
Exposure levels to radiation during x-ray radiography is incredibly low.
Radiation is toxic, but like any toxin, its risk is determined by dosage over time. A large dose very quickly is hazardous; that same dose, but spread out over a long period, is not.
Radiographs are low-doses of radiation delivered very infrequently. They do not pose a risk to children, adults, or the elderly.
At Platinum Dental, we use the latest OPG machines to take our radiographs. These digital x-rays use significantly less radiation than traditional film radiographs, as well as other types of digital x-rays. At Platinum Dental, we keep your radiation exposure the lowest you’ll find.
During a dental X-ray, you will get a lead “bib” over your chest and torso to prevent any unnecessary radiation exposure to vital organs, but this is purely precautionary.
This said it is not advisable to get x-rays during pregnancy. Pregnant women, women who believe they might be pregnant, or those attempting to become pregnant, should alert their dentist, so they do not receive x-rays.
If X-rays are safe, why do radiographers usually leave the room?
This is a common concern people receiving any type of x-ray have. If they’re safe, why do the people taking them usually leave the room, or wear even more protective gear?
As we said before, the danger of radiation is like any toxin — dosage over time.
Consider the following. Someone walks into a bar and orders a shot. The bartender pours one shot for the patron, and another for themselves. That single shot of alcohol isn’t enough to make either the patron or the bartender ill or damage their livers.
But now imagine the first patron leaves, and a second enters. Again, they order a shot, and again, the bartender matches them.
The bartender has now had two shots of alcohol, while each patron has only had one.
Repeat this many times, and you can imagine the poor bartender getting very ill very quickly.
It’s the same with x-ray radiography. The amount of radiation in a single session isn’t enough to harm either person. But if the radiographer is exposed to that radiation every single time someone comes in, that will become enough to cause them harm.
Can I refuse a dental x-ray?
A dentist cannot force a patient to receive any type of treatment, even an x-ray. However, there can be repercussions to refusing a dental x-ray. Without this essential diagnostic tool, many treatments simply can’t be appropriately planned or executed. These include
- Certain extractions
- Diagnosis of toothache
- Root canal problems
Your dentist may be forced to refuse you treatment of certain conditions if x-rays cannot be taken, as it would drastically increase the risk of complications from the treatment.
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We hope this helps provide some clarity around the question ‘are dental x-rays safe’?
Our dentists in Nelson Bay are keen to help you stay on top of your oral health. Book an appointment with our team and get started on the journey to enjoying a healthy, beautiful smile for the rest of your life.