First , some technical information is needed as background information. Dental x-rays are pictures of your teeth and jaw bone on plastic film, or on a computer. Radiation is used to create the film image or computer image. The unit of measurement to measure radiation is called a “rem”. A rem is a large unit. The smaller unit is called millirem(mrem). It takes about 1000mrem to equal one rem. A typical dental x-ray image exposes you to about 2 or 3 mrem. The National Council on Radiation Protection (NRCP) says that the average resident in the U.S. Receives about 360 mrem every year from the sun, radioactive material in the earth, and most foods that we eat.
• Common sources of radiation exposure
Some common sources of radiation exposure are smoke detectors (<1mrem/year), living in a brick house(approximately 10 mrem/year), using natural gas to cook(approximately 10mrem/year), flying in an airplane cross country(5mrem/year), sleeping next to someone(2mrem/year), and reading a book for 3 hours/day(1mrem/year).
• Dental x-rays are safe
A typical dental x-ray image exposes you to about 2 or 3 mrem. As mentioned previously, we get about 360 mrem of radiation every year from natural sources.
• Lead shield
Although dental x-rays are safe, the dentist still uses a lead shield to protect the body from the x-rays. Even pregnant women get dental x-rays on an emergency basis.
• New fast speed film
The newer x-ray film speed is much faster than was used 20 years ago. This has made the need for much less radiation needed to capture an image of a tooth.
Some patients have a fear of x-rays because they have a gagging problem. There are several ways to help the dental patient with this problem. Some experts recommend a nasal decongestant prior to dental appointments that require x-rays to help the patient breathe better through their nose. Others recommend placing some table salt on the patient’s tongue prior to x-rays. This has been found to help patients with gagging. One of the best techniques to help patients with gagging on x-rays is to help them by desensitizing them. This simply means placing a dental tray or a mirror in their mouth prior to taking the x-ray on a repeated basis for a few minutes. This tricks their brain into accepting the x-ray in their mouth without gagging.
Thomas E. Cooke, D.D.S.,P.A.
4905 Green Road #111
Raleigh, NC 27616