Are dental X-rays harmful, and are they necessary?

Posted by admin | Uncategorized | Posted on January 28th, 2014

By: Drs. Oz and Roizen Health Advice, Published on Mon Jan 27 2014

Depending on your age (kids may need them more often) and whether you have a lot of decay or bone loss (that affects older folks), your dentist will suggest when and how often you need X-rays. A full set of dental X-rays is appropriate if you haven’t been to the dentist in more than a year. They let your dentist see things that aren’t apparent when doing a standard exam and cleaning, such as the extent of gum disease, bone decay, decay under fillings or caps and even tumours.

The risks from dental X-rays have decreased, and they now deliver the lowest dose of radiation of any medical X-ray. Two to four images of your back teeth expose you to about 0.005 millisieverts of radiation. Nonetheless, if you’re going to be zapped, you should be given (not offered? ask for it!) a lead bib and a thyroid shield/collar to wear. Generally, pregnant women should skip any X-rays if possible.

By comparison, the average North American is exposed to 3.1 millisieverts from the environment annually. Various estimates conclude that 50 per cent to 97 per cent of this background radiation comes from natural sources (cosmic rays, radon gas and radioactive atoms in the upper atmosphere). The rest may come from nuclear power plants, nuclear medical facilities and procedures, leftover pollution from nuclear bomb tests and other sources.

We understand your concern about a lifetime’s accumulated exposure to radiation. That’s a valid point, but there are bigger sources of exposure that you can control (like opting for MRIs instead of CT scans, if possible). If having a dental X-ray every couple of years reveals an infection or disease — periodontal disease can damage your heart and worsen diabetes — we think the rewards far outweigh the risks.




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