Okay, you understand the financial ramification of having or not having x-rays, but what about the radiation? Isn’t that still bad for you? Hey, it’s RADIATION! Yikes! And media spokespersons are frequently telling us not to have x-rays too often!

In actuality, the advance in our radiology technology has already addressed the issue of high radiation exposure in x-rays. Many dental practices, including our practice, take advantage of digital options. Digital radiography has now developed soft and hardware generations that is very user friendly for dentists and hygienists, offering greater image clarity and applications benefitting diagnosis. And digital radiography uses much less exposure with an x-ray beam. Instead of using traditional film, a sensor or phosphor plate is used to capture the image. The use of a sensor that is directly linked into the computer in the operatory is on its way to becoming the standard of practice.

To give you some perspective, the American Nuclear Society states the average radiation dose per person per year is 620 millirems (mrems) per year. The allowable dose for those exposed to radiation in their work is 5,000 mrems per year. Here are some examples of other common exposures to radiation:

  • 2 hours in a jet airplane = 1 mrem
  • Living in a stone or adobe house = 7 mrem per year
  • Smoking one pack of cigarettes each day = 36 mrems per year
  • Having a whole body scan =1000 mrem
  • 1 Bitewing or Periapical dental x-ray = .08 – .5 mrem*

*(The range here may be due to varying equipment andmethods used to take dental x-raysin different dental practices, some using actual film (.5 mrem), and others using digital radiographic technology (.08 mrem).

This might help you understand why we still feel the benefits our patients receive from x-rays far out -weigh the minimal exposure of radiation. Preventive caries (dental decay) and periodontal (gum and bone) disease detection x-rays are very helpful in early diagnosis and treatment.

Still not sure about this radiation thing? Think about it, radiation is all around us anywhere we live on this planet. It is in the ground materials of the earth, including your granite countertops, it is in the air as naturally occurring radon, and it can be found in the food we eat and water we drink. Depending on your altitude, and how much of our life is spent up in the air in a jet, we are all exposed to some degree of cosmic radiation. It is common sense to control what exposure we can, but it also makes sense to be proactive rather than reactive about our healthcare, and the production and use of radioisotopes for medical uses and radiology for dental and medical diagnostics are essential to that.

Primary source for this information is the American Nuclear Society. www.ans.org/pi/resources

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