Are Dental X-rays Safe?

Why take x-rays?

At some point or another your dentist is going to take x-rays of your teeth. Why? The answer is pure and simple. Dentists are not super human, they cannot see through the gum and bone to see the roots and they cannot see if any decay is present under any fillings.

Dentists need x-rays to confirm, diagnose and check. Without x-rays, it would make the dentists job very hard indeed.

Are they dangerous?

Not at all. In fact you are subjected to more radiation when walking around the environment! The amount of radiation you are exposed to with dental x-rays is very minimal and dentists will only take x-rays if absolutely necessary to keep any exposure to radiation to a minimum.

Small x-rays are taken every 18-24 months.  These x-rays are called Bitewings. These show the back teeth, any fillings present and allows us to check in between the teeth.  A large scanning xray, which is taken once every 5 years, shows all the teeth, bone levels, jaw bone, sinuses and the Inferior Dental Nerve.  This x-ray is very important, especially when removing lower wisdom teeth.  The odd Periapical is taken when there may be a problem with a tooth and the roots need to be seen.  

What if I am pregnant?

Most dentists would rather wait until you have had a baby to take an x-ray.  Although they are relatively safe to be taken, its just a precautionary measure in case.  X-rays should be avoided if you are in the first 3 months of pregnancy.

If they are safe why does the dentist leave the room?

Think about how many patients the dentist sees in a week.  If all of these patients required x-rays then that’s a lot of radiation the dentist and team are being exposed to.  The risk to you is minimal as its likely you will only have one or two x-rays taken.

Can I keep my x-rays?

Unfortunately the x-rays remain the property of the practice taking them.  These are an essential part of your records and must be kept together with your file.  You are welcome to copies of the x-rays but may have to pay for them.  If you move to another practice you do not have to take these with you.  Most dentists prefer to take new, up to date x-rays and start new records.  Your old records will not be destroyed as your previous dentist is required to keep these for 11 years.

If you are worried about dental x-rays and the exposure to radiation, speak to your dentist.  He will reassure you and show you just how safe x-rays nowadays are.