Dental X-Rays

By Dr. Medhi Salari

Benefits of Dental X-rays

Dental X-rays help us detect cavities, infections, gum disease, cysts, tumors and developmental abnormalities much sooner than waiting for these problems to get large enough to become evident to the naked eye; or painful enough to become uncomfortable and noticeable to the patient.

Dentistry has led the healing professions in preventive care since the 1940’s and x-rays help us each and every day in finding and treating dental disease in its earliest and easiest to treat stages.

Patients who receive regular exams and x-rays tend to retain their teeth for life, while patients who go without exams and x-rays tend to have more extensive dental work, such as root canals and extractions.  By the time the problem has become uncomfortable or noticeable to the patient, the decay or problem has already progressed too far.

Risks of Dental X-rays

A large number of patients cite exposure to radiation as a concern in consenting to regular dental x-rays and exams.  We gathered the following information from the American Nuclear Society website to put the amount of radiation from Dental X-rays in perspective.

Source of Radiation

Estimated Exposure (mrem)

Air Travel

0.5 per HOUR

Dental Bitewings (4 films)

2

Dental Complete Series of X-rays

10

Medical Chest X-ray (1 film)

10

Natural Radiation from the ground

30 per year

Natural Cosmic Radiation in Central Oregon (elev. 3,000 – 4,000 ft.)

41 per year

Medical X-ray – Mammography

42

Medical CT Scan – Head

200

Internal Radiation from food & air

268 per year

Medical Upper GI X-rays

600

Medical CT Scan of Abdomen/Pelvis

1000

 As you can see from the table above, radiation exposure from dental x-rays is extremely low, in comparison to other forms of radiation that we are routinely and often times naturally exposed to.  We also take the added precaution of routinely covering our patients with a lead apron and Thyroid collar to further minimize the already low exposure levels.

International standards have recommended a maximum amount of radiation for humans working with or around radioactive materials at 5,000 mrem per year.  The average accumulated amount of radiation per person is approximated at 620 per year.  You can calculate your own annual radiation dose by visiting the American Nuclear Society website (www.ans.org), and clicking ‘Public Information’, ‘Resources’ and then ‘Dose Chart’.

General Recommendations & Protocol

Our goal is to take the very best care of your teeth and mouth as possible.  In order to do that, we need periodic x-rays to properly diagnose and treat conditions that might exist or arise in your mouth.

We realize that different patients and different dental conditions require different protocols.  We have always strived to minimize our patient’s x-ray exposure and at the same time reduce the costs associated with necessary x-rays.

We do not have a one-size fits all x-ray routine in our office, but have tailored our X-ray Protocol to benefit each specific patient’s dental and medical conditions.

Patients who have a higher risk of decay, multiple existing restorations or more complex treatment plans require more frequent and regular dental x-rays.

Patients who have experienced fewer cavities and restorations in their past, and have exhibited a smaller risk of dental disease, will continue to have less frequent dental x-rays recommended to them.

Our X-ray Protocol also takes into account numerous other important factors; such as pregnancy, patient’s age, list of medications and concurrent medical conditions (dry mouth, acid reflux, concurrent radiation therapy, …).

We will continue to honor the trust that our patients have placed in us, by taking the necessary steps to properly diagnose and treat their dental problems, while remaining respectful of our patient’s wishes for a protocol that caters to each patient as an individual.

With our X-ray Recommendations and Protocols, we hope to provide the right balance between our patient’s wishes for reduced exposure to radiation and the Oregon Board of Dentistry’s Standard of Care for dental practices.

Excerpts from  American Dental Association (www.ada.org) and American Nuclear Society (www.ans.org) 

 

Dr. Mehdi Salari is a 1993 graduate of the OHSU School of Dentistry.  He has been in private practice in Bend, Oregon for 19 years and along with his wife, have three kids under the age of nine.  He is a Past President of the Central Oregon Dental Society.  He has been actively involved in the Central Oregon soccer community through coaching, playing and officiating.  He also volunteers with the Central Oregon Community College Dental Assisting Program, Healthy Beginnings, Volunteers in Medicine and the Kemple Children’s Clinic Give Kids a Smile program.

 

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