How safe are dental x-rays?

Dental x-rays are a common diagnostic procedure and are considered extremely safe. Modern digital x-rays have 80% less radiation than the older style films of the past. However, if you need a dental x-ray, it’s helpful to know exactly what’s involved.

Why dentists use dental x-rays?

Dental x-rays are used to help dentists identify and treat various issues that can’t be picked up by examination alone. This includes common issues like decay (especially areas between teeth or under a filling), bone loss associated with gum disease, infections of the tooth or gum (abscesses), tumours or changes to the root canal.

Without an x-ray, many problems would go undiagnosed. With an x-ray, dentists can better plan your treatment and prepare for things like fillings, braces, crowns and other similar treatments.

Are dental x-rays safe?

Until recently, most dentists would use the older style ‘film’ x-rays. The new digital x-rays are considered extremely safe and use very low doses of radiation, producing just a fraction of what you are exposed to in other imaging procedures. In fact, the average intra oral x-ray has the same radiation level that you would receive from flying interstate – something many people do regularly without a second thought.

Can children have x-rays?

It’s natural for parents to worry about the impact of dental x-rays on children but there’s very little cause for concern and the amount of radiation is considered safe.

As children’s jaws and teeth are continuously changing, x-rays can help dentists keep an eye on their development. This includes early identification of many serious dental concerns, such as decay and gum disease early; and making sure the mouth is large enough to accommodate incoming teeth.

Dental x-rays during pregnancy

Ideally, dental x-rays should be avoided in the first trimester of pregnancy. Otherwise, dental x-rays are considered safe for pregnant women. If fact, it’s far better to seek treatment in an emergency (or continue treatment if you are in the middle of a dental treatment plan) than avoid seeing your dentist altogether. Tell your dentist if you are (or may be) pregnant if you have any concerns.

Ways to increase safety

There are things that your dentist can do to minimise radiation from x-rays. For example, although not required, you can ask to wear a lead apron while your x-rays are taken.

The best plan is always to speak to your ineedadentist if you have any concerns and ensure x-rays are only done when necessary.