Nowadays, dentistry cannot do without diagnostic radiology also known as X-rays. The images of intraoral basic radiography, in 3-D or panoramic, will give your dentist valuable information on your teeth and gums, and help him choose the best treatment for dental patients. Many worries that dental X-ray equipment emits harmful radiation for humans. In fact, measurements of radiation transmitted during the dental radiology process show that they are no different from those to which we are exposed daily, such as boarding an aircraft, and the proximity to televisions and smoke detectors.
Myth # 1
“Do I need an X-ray every time I visit the dentist? ”
The frequency with which you may need X-rays will depend on your oral health. A healthy adult who hasn’t had cavities or other problems for a few years does not probably need X-rays at every appointment.
However, it’s possible that you may need X-rays more often if an unstable dental situation requires your dentist to monitor your progress. Remember that dental X-rays emit very low radiation and are an essential tool to enable the dentist to maintain control over small problems.
For most people, an examination every 6 months is enough, but the frequency of your visits and X-rays will depend on your dental needs and your dentist will guide you according to your personal hygiene.
The purpose of an examination is to identify hidden problems early. X-rays are the only way to see the inside of tissues and detect things undetectable to the naked eye.
Myth # 2
“Too many dental X-rays can cause brain tumours.”
A few years ago, the Order of Quebec Dentists refuted the findings of a 2012 study on which is based the article “Dental X-Rays and Risk of Meningioma”. According to the ODQ, the article does not prove a causal relationship between ionizing radiation of dental origin and the development of meningioma.
This article by Yale University epidemiologists found that dental X-rays increase the risk of meningioma, a benign brain tumor. For example, the researchers argue that dental X-rays are the main artificial source of exposure to ionizing radiation in the United States, a form of radiation associated with an increased risk of brain tumors.
In fact, ionizing radiation associated with dental X-rays represents no more than 3 to 5% non-natural radiation to which people are regularly exposed; the other 95% come from medical radiological examinations.
Less risk with 3D radiography
3D digital radiography equipment limit patient exposure time with X-rays, while ensuring higher precision images of the focus area. Because of this, anatomical depth and relationships between different dental structures are identified and measured accurately for more reliable diagnostics and better treatments.
Three-dimensional imaging is obtained using a digital X-ray scanner specially designed for radiological examination of the head and jaws. The scanner rotates 360 degrees around a patient’s head in seconds. Even if the patient isn’t wearing a protective apron, radiation is maintained above the thyroid gland. The taking a single volume radiography allows to obtain and extract hundreds of images of many dimensions using specialized software.
Myth # 3
“Never expose a pregnant woman or a child to radiography.”
There is no medical indication against taking dental X-rays on pregnant patients. However, at the request of the patient, elective procedures may be postponed until after pregnancy.
Although the radiation dose emitted during a dental radiography is quite low and the process is safe, pregnant women should refrain from having X-rays unless they are absolutely necessary. As pregnant women are at greater risk of gum disease, it’s important not to ignore a potentially serious dental problem for fear of radiation exposure.
If you are pregnant and you must have an X-ray, the dental assistant will have you wear a lead apron to the front and a lead collar for the thyroid to protect vulnerable body parts.
X-rays for children?
Radiography will provide information about your child’s condition that isn’t visible during a clinical oral evaluation. Radiographs will show the position and development of teeth that have erupted or not in the mouth, and the relationship of teeth with the bone and gum tissue. You can also see the relationship of the child’s jaws one to the other, and plan an appropriate treatment to achieve the best results.
It’s impossible to sign a waiver exempting X-rays for your child if they are necessary to conclude a diagnosis for an orthodontic problem and to plan the best treatment needed.
Myth # 4
“Dental personnel risk exposure to ionizing radiation.”
Even if we are aware of all the benefits of patients X-raying, care must be taken to reduce the potentially harmful effects of ionizing radiation for the health of X-ray operators.
The radiation dose received by an operator during an average radiological examination is quite low. However, in cases where the operator is exposed to measurable doses of radiation, the body’s defence mechanisms will act on cells exposed in order to repair lesions.
Reducing risk for staff
Dental personnel can reduce the risks associated with radiation exposure by following established security measures and by carrying a dosimeter. This is a device that measures the degree of X-ray exposure during a given period. An exposure report indicating the radiation dose received during this period is then produced.
At the Clinic, we maintain a log of the number of radiographs taken daily and we submit this information to the Public Health Agency of Canada laboratory when renewing our dental radiology permit. We must also send dosimeters periodically to the national dosimetry service.
Continuous training of operators
Our staff has completed the training necessary to operate our radiographic equipment. Manufacturers provide on-site training during installation, and they come back to update the training required by new equipment technology.
Myth # 5
“X-rays on film were more reliable than digital counterpart today.”
David Côté Dental Clinic replaced film X-rays by digital radiography over 15 years ago. This technique offers unmatched precision and allows even sharper diagnoses. Unlike the old method, the digital images are stored on the clinic’s computer system.
In addition, the radiation level with digital is significantly lower than the traditional method. This technique also allows instant results and rapid email transmission to relevant bodies. A plus, having eliminated the use of plastic film is very beneficial to the environment.
- Digital radiography will keep images in your electronic dental record.
- 90% reduction of radiation exposure levels to traditional X-rays.
- Instant results mean less waiting for our patients.
- Quick emailing of digital X-rays to insurance companies and dentists.
- Protects the environment by eliminating toxic solutions for film development.
At our Clinic, we are committed to making our patients’ dental experience as safe and as comfortable as possible. We keep the radiation dose to which a patient is exposed to a minimum while ensuring adequate radiological examinations and diagnoses.
We hope this article has shed light on a subject that can cause anxiety in some patients.