Dental radiographs (or X-Rays) are necessary for diagnosing many dental conditions such as bone loss, cavities, infections and cracked teeth. Many of these issues are very difficult or impossible to see just by looking in the mouth. The level of radiation from a dental X-ray is very low, especially for digital X-rays. We follow the ‘ALARA’ principle which stands for ‘As Low as Reasonably Achievable’. This principle states that we should try and minimize the amount of radiation as much as possible.

Why do I have to wear a lead apron?

Even though levels of radiation are low, we want to make sure that exposure to other parts of the body that we are not looking at are as low as possible. This also follows the ALARA principle of minimizing exposure.

Why do the dentist and assistant always leave the room?

Although the dose is low for a single X-ray, the dentist and dental assistant must take numerous X-rays throughout the day and this occurs every day. If the dentist and assistant stood in the room for each X-ray, it would mean being exposed to the radiation from almost 100 X-rays per week! This is much more than the few X-rays patients receive per year.
If I’m pregnant should I avoid dental X-rays?

As a rule, it is a good practice to minimize the radiation you are exposed to while pregnant. However, certain oral conditions may be more harmful to the baby than the dental X-Ray itself. For example, if the mother has an infection or emergency situation in her mouth, it is in the best interest of the baby to treat the condition right away. This also highlights the importance of regular check-ups and cleanings in women who are trying to become pregnant or if they are already pregnant.

How often do I need dental X-Rays?

The frequency of X-rays is determined by your dentist and is tailored to each individual patient’s oral health needs. If you are more prone to cavities, you will require more frequent X-Rays every 6-12 months. If you are considered low caries risk, you may be able to wait 2 years or more for the next set of X-rays.
How high is the dose of radiation relative to other things?

The average amount of radiation in 4 dental x-rays (called Bite-wing radiographs) is about .005 millisieverts. According to the American College of Radiology that is about half the amount of radiation you get in a normal day from the sun or 1/8 the radiation of an airplane flight from Los Angeles to New York City. Therefore it is very minimal! With the invention of digital X-rays, the amount of radiation has been reduced by approximately 70% when compared to the conventional method.