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How Safe are Dental X-Rays ?

Dental X-rays are like any other X-rays, they give a clearer picture of what’s inside and help the viewer (the dentist, here) take decisions and act on them. Dental X-rays have become quite common today and are not very risky as the dose of radiation from a dental X-ray is quite low and does not cause any harm. In fact, a dental X-ray carries far less risk than other X-rays. Of course, dental X-rays need to be done under expert supervision, taking all the prescribed safety precautions.

Who has to go in for a dental X-Ray?

As mentioned earlier, dental X-rays may be suggested by dentists who believe there are issues that are not visible to the naked eye. However, dentists normally prescribe dental X-rays for adults to get a better view of what lies beneath.

Dental X-rays help dentists view:

  • Decaying portions in the oral cavity (near the teeth and gums)

  • Any bone erosion caused due to gum infections

  • Infections developing at the root of a tooth

  • Tumors in the oral cavity

  • The condition of the root canal

It is very difficult to examine and diagnose problems related to above areas without viewing an X-ray. Moreover, before dentists can suggest a tooth implant, denture or braces, it is necessary for him or her to view an X-ray of the area.

Dental X-rays for kids

Despite the popular misconception that X-rays are harmful for kids, dental X-rays cause no harm as the dosage is well below the prescribed limits. With frequent changes taking place in the structure of the jaws and gums of children, constant monitoring through X-rays helps the dentists prescribe necessary treatment to prevent gum disease or tooth loss.

Viewing children’s dental X-rays helps dentists by:

  • Indicating the development and condition of wisdom teeth

  • Helping study the oral cavity and its capacity to accept new, growing teeth

  • Monitor whether primary/temporary teeth are falling out properly

  • Detect the onset of decay in a tooth

  • Detect the onset of gum disease

Are Dental X-rays harmful for Pregnant Women?

Another common fear is whether dental X-rays are harmful to pregnant women, or rather, the growing fetus. Although the radiation levels are tolerably low, dental X-rays are not recommended by dentists for pregnant women. In case of a dental emergency, the dentist may decide to go ahead with prescribing a dental X-ray, provided the issue is of a serious nature. However, maintaining good oral health during pregnancy is very important.

The good news is that there are certain precautions like using leaded aprons and thyroid collars while taking an X-ray to minimize the risk for a pregnant woman. Sometimes, the dentist may prescribe just a single X-ray in the place of multiple X-rays, which only increase the level of risk.

How to know if a dental X-ray is necessary?

Your dentist is the best judge and it is up to his or her discretion. However, the following factors are taken into consideration before taking the decision:

  • Patient’s age

  • The intensity of dental emergency

  • The oral health conditions

  • Other contributing risk factors

  • Tell-tale symptoms

Brushing twice daily and maintaining good oral hygiene go a long way in maintaining a perfect set of teeth. Unless there is a pressing need, dental X-rays are not prescribed for children and pregnant women. For others, it depends on the circumstances, and the dentist is the person who takes the call.