Every so often, one of our patients will express concern about the radiation levels emitted by our dental X-Ray machine. In today’s post, we’ll discuss how dental X-rays work, and why they are a safe, medically-approved tool that give dentists an unprecedented understanding of our patients’ teeth.
How do Dental X-rays Work?
Dental X-rays, and all X-rays, in fact, work by emitting electromagnetic waves. Different tissues in the body absorb different amounts of electromagnetic radiation, causing them to appear white, gray, or black in X-ray film. The calcium in bones and teeth absorb the most radiation, so they appear white. Fats and other tissues absorb less, so they appear gray.
The word “radiation” might immediately make you think of big nuclear disasters. But the term “radiation” doesn’t always mean something deadly. All humans are exposed to trace amounts of radiation every day, from the sun, natural gas, and other sources. Cosmic radiation constantly rains down on us from our atmosphere, and certain elements are constantly generating a stream of radioactive particles beneath our feet. There is radiation in the food we eat, and in the natural gas we use to cook it. When all is said and done, the average human receives between 10 micro-Sieverts or radiation each day.
Why Dental X-Rays Aren’t Considered Harmful
The reason dentists do not generally consider dental X-rays to be harmful is because the dosage is so low. If a patient receives 4 bitewing X-rays—the standard for a routine dental cleaning—the patient will receive about 10 micro-Sieverts of radiation. In other words, when you receive a digital dental X-ray, you are receiving one day’s worth of natural radiation. This would be dangerous if you had an X-ray every day, which is why your dental hygienist will stand clear of the electromagnetic zone. However, if you only have two dental cleanings a year, you should not suffer any harmful effects.
What Safety Precautions Will my Dentist Take?
A good dentist will always practice a radiation safety principle called ALARA, or “As Low as Reasonably Achievable.” This simply means that your dentist will prescribe only the radiation that is medically necessary for your long-term health. If your dentist has decided to take an X-ray, it means that he or she has determined that the benefits of the X-ray outweigh the risks. Most medical organizations feel that as long as dentists provide lead aprons and lead collars, dental X-rays do not pose a serious threat.
Get The Best Smile Possible with our Charleston Dentist Office
If you live in Charleston, SC or nearby and would like to schedule a dentist appointment, be sure to stop by Low Country Dental Arts! We can’t wait to help you achieve your perfect smile. To learn more about our Charleston dentist office, contact us here.