Should I worry about radiation in the dental office?

Radiation sounds scary, but a lot of patients don’t understand what radiation actually is. In this short article, we are going to attempt to explain how much radiation you get from dental x-rays, and how this compares to the amount of radiation you are exposed in everyday life. We hope this will increase your understanding on the subject as well as lessen any fears you might have.

Radiation is a form of energy that just about everything on the planet releases, though at very low levels. This radiation has been there since before humans were on this planet. We are exposed to radiation from space, from objects in our environment like soil and plants, and from the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink

Radiation is measured in millirems, or mrems.  According to American Nuclear Society, international standards allow for 5,000 mrems in the workplace, and on average, someone living in the United States is exposed to about 620 mrems per year.

At sea level, you are exposed to radiation from outer space at 26 mrems a year, while at higher elevations, your exposure might approach 96 mrems a year. The radiation you receive from the soil varies from 16 to 62 mrems a year depending on where in the United States you live. There is also radiation in the air we breathe through atmospheric Radon that exposes us to about 228 mrems per year. When you are flying in an airplane, you receive about 0.5 mrem per hour of airtime.

A standard dental x-ray emits between 0.1 mrem to 0.5 mrem depending on the type of x-rays. In other words, your check up x-rays expose you to less radiation than a one-way flight to Chicago.

Digital x-rays minimize the exposure even further. At Kaufman Dentistry, we use digital x-rays, in addition to all appropriate safety precautions.

Even though dental x-rays expose you only to very small levels of radiation, you may wonder whether dental x-rays are worth any radiation at all. X-rays can help your dentist locate cavities and infections when they are still small and easily treatable. Dental x-rays also allow dentists to see below the teeth, which would be impossible otherwise. Your dentist may be able to diagnose gum disease, impacted teeth, cancers, and many other problems just from your regular x-rays.

The potential benefits of early diagnosis far outweigh the negligible risks of radiation exposure. We know, though, that this can be a confusing and sensitive topic, so if you have any concerns about radiation exposure from dental x-rays, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss any questions you might have.