Everyone goes to the dentist, and if you stick to the recommendations by the American Dental Association, you go at least twice a year, maybe more. Although good oral hygiene is important, some people do not like going to the dentist because of the poking and prodding that happens in the mouth, in addition to the noises and strange objects. However, some people fear the dentist for another reason: x-rays and the potential risks involved with them.
Everyone knows that x-rays use radiation to take a photograph of the inside of your body. Dentists use this method to gain a better look at your teeth, such as to locate cavities, infections or other dental issues. However, some patients are scared that the radiation used at the dentist office will cause additional health issues, such as cancer—but this is not true.
Dental X-Rays and Radiation
Yes, when you receive an x-ray from your dentist, a small amount of radiation is used to capture the image. However, the amount of radiation used in a dental x-ray is so low that it doesn’t cause any harm to your body. Studies have proven that the amount of radiation is so low that it doesn’t cause any issues with the brain either, a part of the body that still remains exposed during dental x-rays.
So why do people fear the dental x-rays? Because people are afraid of radiation and radioactivity. However, what patients don’t realize is that radiation is a part of their everyday life, regardless of whether or not they visit the dentist. Radioactive materials are found everywhere in the world, from the soil we walk on to the kitchen appliances we have in our homes. In fact, some of the food we eat has gone through a radiation process to kill bacteria.
Radiation and Your Dentist
If radiation at the dentist is something that truly does worry you, the best thing you should do is talk with your dentist before the x-rays. This way, you can hear from them about the safety of their equipment and how it does not affect your health in any way. In addition, you can talk with your dentist about the specific precautions they take to make your x-rays safer. For instance, you can discuss the type of gowns they use over your body during the x-rays, or you can ask about the type of equipment used at your local dentist office.
For instance, instead of traditional x-ray equipment, some dentists are opting for 3D panoramic x-ray machines. Instead of having multiple x-rays taken of the four bitewing sections in your mouth, a 3D panoramic x-ray takes one full x-ray of your mouth in one image. During a panoramic x-ray, your entire mouth is captured, including the teeth, jaws and surrounding teeth structure. This reduces the amount of time you are exposed to the low dose of radiation, which is comforting to many patients.
During a panoramic x-ray, you will stand in the center of the equipment. Your dentist will place a bite blocker in your mouth, and you will still wear a protective gown. In addition, you will also be asked to remove any jewelry, glasses or anything metal. Once you are in position, the machine will move around you as you stand still. The entire procedure will last about 10 seconds, and it’s entirely painless.
Your dentist can then use this x-ray to help diagnose or learn more about your oral health condition. For instance, panoramic x-rays can help dentists diagnose cysts on the jaw bone, jaw disorders, impacted teeth, periodontal disease, jaw tumors, oral cancer, and even sinusitis.
Peace of Mind
Instead of being afraid of the procedures used at your dentist’s office, educate yourself on the truth behind dental x-ray radiation. If you prefer, you can always opt to find a dentist that uses panoramic x-rays instead of traditional x-rays to give you more peace of mind. In the end, though, simply remember that your exposure to radiation is very low, so there isn’t anything serious you need to worry about while having your teeth cleaned at your next appointment.