Are Dental X-Rays Dangerous?

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The idea of being exposed to radiation is scary for many people, since high doses of radiation have been linked to developing cancer. Because of this, you might feel nervous about getting dental x-rays or you might even avoid seeing the dentist entirely. If you've ever wondered if dental x-rays are safe, this guide will explain how much radiation you're exposed to and how it affects your health.

Radiation Risks

While radiation sounds scary, there's one important thing to remember: radiation is everywhere. When you think about radiation, you might think about x-rays, nuclear power plants and bombs, or even ultraviolet rays, but the radiation you're exposed to every day isn't limited to these sources.

You're exposed to radiation daily from UV radiation, electrical power, naturally-occurring radiation in the soil under your feet, cell phones, microwaves, radios and more. Even though nearly every person on the planet is exposed to many kinds of radiation, these sources don't create enough exposure to increase your cancer risk.

Dental X-Rays

You might think that reducing your additional radiation exposure any way you can will reduce your risk of cancer, and it's not a bad idea. However, dental x-rays aren't something you should worry about.

A typical bitewing dental x-ray will expose you to .005 millisieverts of radiation. For comparison's sake, normal daily life in the United States will expose you to about 3.10 millisieverts over the course of a year. That means your dentist's x-ray produces less radiation than you'll experience from natural sources in a single day.

Improving Technology

As technology becomes more advanced, radiation produced by x-rays diminishes, making it even safer:

Reducing Your Need For X-Rays

You can limit your exposure to x-ray radiation even more by maintaining good dental hygiene. People with gum disease, tooth decay and other problems may need to get x-rays every 1 to 1 1/2 years, but those who have good oral health only need them every 2-3 years.

It's perfectly reasonable to be cautious about radiation, but in small doses you don't need to be fearful of consequences. Dental x-rays are a great modern tool that help to identify and treat tooth decay and gum disease, which are far more dangerous when left untreated than miniscule doses of radiation.