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Are Dental X Rays Safe?

On June 6th, 2011 / Posted under: Dental Technology / No Comments »

dental x rays safety

Are Dental X Rays Safe?

Recently, we’ve had a few of our patients ask us whether dental x-rays are safe—especially since an episode of Dr. Oz that aired late last year suggested a link between dental x-rays and thyroid cancer. Your peace of mind is just as important to us your teeth are, so we thought we would address the issue here.

For one, as a recent New York Times article noted, thyroid cancer is relatively rare—out of the people who have been diagnosed with cancer, it accounts for around 3 percent cases in women, 1 percent in men and 1.4 percent in children (and of those who do develop thyroid cancer, 97 percent survive). Since millions of people all over the world get dental x-rays every year, one would expect those numbers to be higher if the link between dental x-rays and thyroid cancer were so significant.

The article also goes on to note that the study cited on Dr. Oz to support this supposed link used questionable methods to gather information (relying on study subjects’ recollection of how many dental x-rays they’d undergone in their lifetime to calculate how much radiation they had been exposed to, for example), which makes their conclusions unconvincing at best.

More important than any of this other information, however, is the simple fact that dental x-rays do not expose you to high levels of radiation. Traditional dental x-rays already produce much lower radiation levels than other medical x-rays do—mammograms produce around five times more, for example—and at PCCD, we take even further precautions for your safety by using digital x-rays, which emit as much as 80 percent less radiation as regular dental x-rays.

The fact is, all of us are exposed to mild levels of radiation (referred to as “natural background radiation”) every day, just by performing our usual daily activities. Radiation exposure is measured in millisieverts (mSv). It’s estimated that in a given year, we are exposed to 2.5 mSv of natural background radiation, which works out to about 0.007 mSv per day. Dental x-rays expose you to less than 0.001 mSv—which essentially means that you expose to yourself to more than seven times as much radiation just by going to work, driving in your car, and grocery shopping on any given day. Don’t be frightened by these numbers, though; the point is that they are so low that they don’t really affect you.

Experts—including thyroid cancer specialists—agree that even traditional dental x-rays don’t emit enough radiation to cause any kind of cancer, and since digital x-rays emit far less than that, they’re about as safe as you can get! At PCCD, we also provide our patients with lead aprons and thyroid collars, ensuring maximal protection from the little radiation you are exposed to.

We pride ourselves in providing the best possible care for our dental patients at PCCD, and that includes safety. Dental x-rays are incredibly important: they can detect gum disease, abscesses, and abnormal growths in the teeth and gums; they allow us to view and understand your teeth, jaw placement, and facial bone composition. We’re lucky to be able to utilize this technology in a manner that doesn’t put your health at risk.

We hope that the information you’ve read here has put you at ease about dental x-rays—and that it will make your next trip to the dentist far less scary!

Please let us know if you have any other questions by leaving a comment below!

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