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Are Dental X-rays Safe?

Now and then, we hear from patients who want to know if dental X-rays are genuinely safe.

Various media outlets create fear in public by reporting on some "new study". Studies show the amounts of radiation exposure they receive during a dental X-ray to be harmful. What these stories ignore is there are well-established standards and best practices for performing dental X-rays. And, if your dental health professional is conforming to these standards, your risk is virtually non-existent.

According to the latest information available, here in a Radiation Chart at When appropriately performed, dental X-rays contain the same amount of radiation that you would experience naturally in a single day. Therefore, the risk factor is "negligible.". In other words, an X-ray in your dentist's office is the same as living one day in sunlight—no big deal.

Dental X-ray Standards and Practices

In April 2012, the American Dental Association responded to a study about the effects of dental X-rays. The study was relative to increased incidents of a particular type of brain tumor. The ADA concluded that the study was flawed in its approach and conclusions. From their response.

"Since 1989, the ADA has published recommendations to help dentists ensure that radiation exposure is as low as reasonably achievable... As part of the ADA's recommendations to minimize radiation exposure, the ADA encourages the use of abdominal shielding (e.g., protective aprons) and thyroid collars on all patients. In addition, the ADA recommends that dentists use E or F speed film, the two fastest film speeds available, or a digital x-ray." (ADA Press Release)

Beyond these standards, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes standards and guidelines for using dental X-rays. Again, when dental professionals follow the standards and guidelines, the risk of patient exposure is negligible.

A properly trained and ethical dental health professional will never expose patients to excessive levels of exposure by performing unnecessary dental X-rays. In extreme and rare cases, where a patient is at risk of severe tooth decay, for example, a dental patient will require X-rays more than once a year.

The safest approach for you, if you're concerned about the amount of exposure you or your family have received, is to voice your concerns to your dentist and ask if the X-rays are essential.

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