It is a common concern that exposure to radiation is linked to health concerns such as increased risk of cancer. Dental x-rays are needed to help your family dentist identify issues such as bone loss and dental decay, especially in hidden areas between teeth or beneath old fillings. You may wonder how often dental x-rays are needed for preventative care, and how much is too much?
The right frequency of dental imaging should be determined in conversation with your dentist. It should generally be as low as reasonably possible while still achieving the benefits of early detection in diagnosing oral health issues before they become more serious. One guideline that is used by the Canadian and American Dental Associations is the Recommendations For Patient Selection And Limiting Radiation Exposure. However, you should also consider individuals factors such as your age, previous dental work, and any existing signs of dental decay or gum disease.
To further mitigate potential risks of x-ray exposure, our North Vancouver dental office uses digital x-ray imaging to reduce radiation by up to 90% compared to standard film based x-rays. Digital x-rays are stored electronically and can be easily sent to other dental offices for referrals when needed. There is no wait time for the images to develop, and the process is more comfortable for the patient.
In the big picture, dental x-rays account for a very small fraction of the overall radiation that an average person is exposed to. A set of intraoral x-rays should expose you to less than 10 micro-Sieverts of radiation. In comparison, the average North American is exposed to over 3,000 micro-Sieverts from the environment each year. Even so, take precaution into your own hands by speaking to your dentist, avoiding x-rays if you might be pregnant, and by always making sure you are offered a lead bib and thyroid collar to wear during an x-ray.