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Dental X-ray Radiation

Updated: Mar 17

I had a new patient come in for a Consultation the other day to discuss her dental health. She had seen several holistic dentists in the last month and was still trying to find one she felt comfortable with. Today, it was me.

As is usual, we reviewed her medical and dental history. When asked about any recent dental x-rays, she said that she was hesitant to take them as of yet, since every dental office she visited did not offer digital x-rays. She was extremely concerned about the radiation levels and she delayed having them done.

One office even told her that the amount of radiation from conventional x-rays was identical to the digital x-rays. This left her feeling that something was not right with that office and so she continued her search.

Digital X-rays

Let me begin by saying that there is a HUGE difference between conventional and computerized digital x-rays. Besides the obvious one being that conventional film needs to be developed over time in chemicals in the dark room and the digital appears instantly on the computer screen enlarged in magnification, there is the radiation factor.

Since our practice often gets questions about the amount of radiation received during routine x-rays, let’s take a look at the actual measurement of how much radiation you are getting during routine x-rays.

The dose of radiation is measured in millirems or mrem.

According to the American Nuclear Society, this is how much radiation you can expect from common activities:

  • 620 mrem/year = the average level of radiation per person in the US

  • 50000 mrem/year = the safe allowable dose for people that are exposed to radiation in their wok

  • 1 mrem = two hours in a jet plane

  • 7 mrem/year = from living in a brick house

  • 10 mrem/year = cooking with natural gas

  • 2 mrem/year = from sleeping next to someone else

  • 36 mrem/year = from smoking one pack of cigarettes a day

  • 42 mrem = breast mammogram per breast

  • 700 mrem = abdominal x-ray

  • 63 mrem/year = living in the Colorado Plateau area

  • 0.5 mrem = one conventional dental x-ray

  • 0.05 to 0.1 mrem = one digital dental xr-ay

The amount of radiation (mrem) that a patient receives during dental x-rays is very small when compared to other sources of radiation in everyday life. In addition to using modern digital x-rays, our office also provides a lead apron with a thyroid collar protector, as well as an antioxidant and a homeopathic remedy for additional radiation protection.

So, with regard to the dental x-ray radiation output, the conventional x-ray is a very low dose, but the digital dental x-ray is about 90% lower. When you consider that all radiation exposure is cumulative, it is always best to be on the safe side and choose an office that offers digital.

If you like this post, you may also like Radiation everywhere. Vacations included.

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