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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Are dental x-rays dangerous?

Some people do not want diagnostic (check-up) x-rays because they have heard that the radiation from dental x-rays is dangerous. In fact, they pose very little danger. There are currently two methods of measuring exposure to radiation. The first and oldest unit of measure is called a rem. A rem is a large unit, so exposure to medical radiation is generally measured in millirems (mrem). (It takes a thousand millirems to make a rem.) Dental x-rays on the slowest speed film (very old technology) deliver about 4 mrem. Many dental offices today use faster film which reduce radiation by a factor of 2-4x. So, the average dose across the board is about 2 mrem per intraoral film. Thus, using the slowest speed film, a full mouth series of dental x rays (18 intraoral films) delivers about 72 mrem. A panorex film delivers about 8 mrem. By comparison, according to the National council on radiation protection and measurements, the average person in the US is exposed to about 360 mrem per year just from background sources. By this measure, it would take approximately 5 full series of dental radiographs on the slowest speed film to equal the background radiation that the average citizen is exposed to on a yearly basis. Note, that we take a new full series or Panorex every three to five years on average. We will update bite-wing or other individual x-rays on an individual basis. So, in summary, many offices use faster film (which is still older technology), reducing the dose of radiation per film by about half. Offices using digital radiography, like ours, which is the newest technology, reduce the radiation by much, much more. If you have any questions about this, please visit us at our office for an explanation. We have a chart that shows level of radiation exposure from dental x-rays and many other things we are exposed to on a daily basis. You would be happy to see that dental x-rays are in fact not what should worry us when it comes to radiation exposure.


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