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Are We Getting Too Much Radiation From Dental X-Rays?

I remember when I was a little kid, and I went to the dentist for dental x-ray machine. It was a very uncomfortable procedure, with me laying back in a chair, a heavy weight placed on me (obviously to crush me), biting down on a metal torture device, while a cannon shot radiation into my body that would turn me into a mutant (and if the X-rays came out bad, well, the dentist would smile evilly as he reached for the needle and the drill ...)
dental x-ray machine
At least that's how my eight-year-old eyes saw it.

Of course, now that I'm an NYC Cosmetic Dentist, I know differently. We aren't evil (most of us aren't, anyway), the drill is very necessary, the needle eliminates the pain and the radiation given is scant. Which is this week's topic -- I'd like to talk a bit about radiation and dental X-rays.

Dental X-rays are very targeted

Unlike conventional X-rays on other parts of the body (which usually take a picture of a large area), dental X-rays are very targeted to a small part of the body. In fact, it's typically shot via a cone (like a laser), and very focused. This ultra-precise targeting (plus your lead apron) ensures that just a small part of the body receives the small dose of radiation.

With digital x-rays, Dental x-rays emit even less radiation

Digital X-rays have been around for awhile now, and are quite popular, although I will say that not all dentists use them, because the equipment is expensive. But the advantages are so profound (3) that I believe you should probably seek out a dentist who does. Amongst the benefits are: immediate viewing of the digital image, easy storage for comparison, the ability to enhance the image, better communication between dental practitioners (when you can e-mail an X-ray, it's a huge timesaver), and (ready for it?) LOWER radiation. In some cases, up to 80 percent lower. This is a pretty big deal.

As you can see, the radiation you get from dental X-rays is negligible (even without the just-mentioned digital x-rays). You receive more radiation by just "living" than you do by going to your dentist. But the benefits of dental X-rays are huge -- in most cases, we cannot see dental issues without them. With X-rays, we can catch that cavity well before you feel it -- without an X-ray, it could linger (painlessly, even), until the tooth becomes infected. Then, it's generally either a root canal, or you lose the tooth. That's a heavy price to pay -- trust me, the X-ray is well worth it.


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