How Safe Are X-Rays?
Getting x-rays is a regular part of many dental visits, but some people have questions about the safety of these x-rays. You may wonder:
- Should children be getting dental x-rays?
- Will they have any cumulative effect over your lifetime?
- Can you get cancer from dental x-rays?
- Are there safer forms of x-rays?
Let’s take a look at each of these questions one by one.
Should Kids Get Dental X-Rays?
Parents understandably get concerned about exposing their kids to radiation. But as we explain to patients on a regular basis, kids often need more x-rays than adults because their mouths are constantly changing. Their jaws grow, they lose baby teeth and they get new ones.
It’s true that kids’ tissue is a bit more sensitive to radiation because it is still developing. However, the amount of radiation given off by a dental x-ray is minimal. Dental x-rays are safe for kids as long as dentists take proper precautions, such as:
- Taking one instead of multiple images
- Using the lowest radiation setting possible
- Giving x-rays only when dentally necessary
Will Dental X-Rays Affect Me Over my Lifetime?
No. A responsible dentist will not allow you to have more x-rays than your body can handle, and the amount of radiation you are exposed to is very low. The average person is exposed to more radiation from the sun over a year than from an x-ray.
Can You Get Cancer From Dental X-Rays?
Generally no, as long as your dentist is following the current guidelines for dental x-rays. It’s recommended that adults receive dental x-rays every two or three years. In this case, the amount of radiation is minimal and won’t cause any long-term harm.
Are There Safer Forms of Dental X-Rays?
A bitewing x-ray, the most common form of dental x-ray, produces 0.005 millisieverts of radiation, the equivalent of a day in the sun. But you can get twice that dose of radiation from a panoramic X-ray, which goes around your head.
Since bitewings have lower radiation, they may technically be safer — but as long as you aren’t getting any type of x-ray frequently, the increased radiation in panoramic x-rays shouldn’t be cause for concern.