It’s a common concern, especially among parents, that exposure to radiation during dental x-rays can cause damage to the body’s tissues, and that the exposure could even lead to cancer in some cases. It’s an important question to ask, since dental x-rays are the only exposure to this type of radiation that people have on a regular basis when they visit their dentists. Here’s some more info on the subject.

Whenever we’re exposed to sources of radiation, such as the sun, appliances in our homes and even minerals in the soil, there’s a potential for damage. Whenever your dentist takes a bitewing x-ray, which is typical during a routine exam, you are exposed to about .005 millisieverts of radiation, which is about the same amount of radiation you receive from the sun and other sources on a normal day. A panoramic x-ray, which circles around your head, exposes you to about .01 millisieverts.

Dental x-rays are a very useful diagnostic tool in the modern dental office. X-rays allow dentists to see bones, tissue and hidden surfaces between your teeth that cannot be seen with the naked eye. As x-ray technology evolves, and more and more dentists transition to digital x-ray technology, the amount of radiation exposure continues to go down, making routine x-rays safer for patients.
In general, dentists will recommend x-rays every six months to check for cavities or bone loss in the jaw. They’re especially common during your first appointment with a new dentist. If you’re concerned about radiation exposure, talk to your dentist during your next appointment. We can talk to you about how often x-rays are needed and why they’re being taken. Some people may need x-rays more often for special conditions, and even still, dentists must abide by current guidelines involving x-rays that ensure they’re only given when needed for a clinical diagnosis.