Radiograph exposure

Are You Exposing Yourself At The Dentist?

Dr. Sanchez explains the risks and benefits of x-rays.

Dental radiographs, better known as X-rays, as well as any other type of radiographs, have the potential to cause cancer if used indiscriminately.

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Doctors need to weigh the benefits of making a diagnosis against exposing the patient. Each patient is different; therefore the decision to take radiographs needs to be made on a patient by patient basis, and not as a single standard for the whole population. The groups more at risk for negative effects from radiation are children and teenagers as they have a longer life expectancy during which the effects can appear.

Doctors can use different tools to make a diagnosis. If radiographs are necessary, they should be used as little as possible with the minimum amount of exposure. Modern digital radiographs can reduce exposure time by as much as 40-60%. The National Council on Radiation Protection reports that the US population was exposed to medical radiation in the early 1980’s at around 15%. This number had increased to 48% by 2006. One of the causes could be the increased use of CT scans and treatments using nuclear medicine.

An easy way to be protected, if radiographs are to be taken, is to use a lead apron that has a neck collar that fits snugly. The main organs at risk with dental radiographs are the thyroid and parotid glands located in the neck. Make sure it is worth it by discussing risks and benefits with your dentist before you expose yourself again!

Written by Dr. Luis Sanchez

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