I’m often asked as a dental practitioner, “Are dental X-rays necessary?” Often, I’m even told by my patients that they aren’t necessary; or worse, I hear whisperings of the belief that practitioners are just “running up the insurance” by taking them.
There is a fear inherent with the “R” word: radiation. A colleague of mine wrote a short, informative piece on the safety and necessity of dental x-rays that I would like to share with our Enhance Dental family. Please pass the link on if you feel this would benefit them!
Yours in better dental health,
by Jacquelyn Do, DDS
X-ray technology has provided immeasurable diagnostic benefits to the medical and dental community. Doctors can now identify and prevent the progression of disease at earlier stages. With the development of digital imaging technology, the amount of radiation exposure in routine dental x-rays are now considered negligible.
A comparison of our daily natural environmental radiation exposure with the amount of radiation in dental x-rays will help in understanding the risks and benefits encountered during your child’s routine dental check-ups.
According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, the average American receives an effective dose of 3 millisieverts (mSv) per year from naturally occurring radioactive materials and cosmic radiation from outer space. Naturally occurring radioactive materials can be found in the air that we breathe and the food that we eat. Cosmic radiation is that which we receive from the sun in the form of UVA/UVB wavelengths.
For a child who is in their primary dentition and has not yet lost their first baby tooth, the dental x-rays indicated to be taken by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), are two bitewings and two periapicals. The total amount of radiation for this set is 0.008 mSv. If a child has one or more adult teeth then a panoramic x-ray is indicated in addition to the bitewing and periapical x-rays. The amount of radiation exposure in a single panoramic x-ray is 0.007 mSV.
Following are comparisons of effective radiation dose with naturally-occurring environmental radiation exposure:
Depending on your child’s dental health and history, the AAPD recommends that children have dental x-rays taken as soon as their teeth touch and proximal services cannot be visualized or probed. Then, once every 12-18 months, thereafter, and more frequently when there is a past experience of tooth decay or an increased risk for tooth decay. Examples of factors that increase the risk for tooth decay are poor oral hygiene, inadequate fluoride exposure, prolonged nursing, and frequent high sugar content in the diet.
Tooth decay left undiagnosed and untreated can often times lead to dental pain or emergency. With the help of your child’s pediatric dentist you can gain the information and tools vital to keeping your child cavity-free. Schedule your child’s first dental check-up by their first birthday and every 6 months following. Prevention and early diagnose is key to a healthy dental home.