X-Rays can be pretty scary to anyone outside of the medical field. We’re constantly inundated with silly skits on televisions of x-rays. Like ones showing light bulbs in places they shouldn’t be — if you’re not sure what we’re talking about, here’s a link to the classic Scrubs episode — or a crayon shoved into Homer Simpson’s brain.
If you’ve ever gotten an x-ray then you know they’re not exactly a calming experience, especially in the dentist’s office. The hygienist will give you painfully large pieces of oddly shaped plastic to bite down on for an excruciating amount of time, while you’re wearing a heavy vest and a big metal arm swings out to meet your cheek.
Are X-Rays Really Necessary?
The short answer is YES, very. Did you know that doctors have been performing x-rays since 1895? That’s right! Wilhelm Rontgen accidentally discovered the process and since then, x-rays have become crucial for physical health diagnoses. The x-rays themselves are beneficial, it’s the radiation exposure that we need to be conscious of.
In the past 10 years, it feels as though radiation (both ionizing and non-ionizing) has become more prevalent in our lives than ever, from the x-ray machines at the airport to our cellphones in our pockets. Considering the new health risks and questions that come about from any environmental change, our newfound radiation affiliations caused a lot of fear and speculation at first.
Now that humans are older and wiser, we can say that dental x-rays are not only necessary but are as safe as possible for you and your child. In fact, by the nature of our atmosphere and environment, you’re exposed to more radiation on a 4-hour flight than you are when getting a dental x-ray!
What Do You See?
Great question! Why are dental x-rays so important? These images show us tooth development, dentofacial growth, tooth growth, and bone health. Additionally they help us identify:
- Abnormalities in your teeth roots
- Periodontal diseases
- Tumors in the oral tissue
Overall, the average amount of radiation from regular, yearly x-rays is 0.005 mSv. That is one of the lowest radiation dosages for a medical procedure to date. In this case, the benefits of receiving dental x-rays far outweigh the possible harm of such slight exposure. In the end, these x-rays will save you time, money, and energy considering the possible diseases and painful issues we can prevent by catching warning signs and early stages before they fully develop.
Additionally, the pediatric dentist or hygienist will put a heavy shield on your child — you should get one too when you get x-rays! — made of lead. Don’t worry! They don’t hurt and aren’t dangerous. In fact, patients often find the weight of the lead aprons relaxing. It’s a rubber coated, body shaped blanket that protects your organs between your shoulders and your waist from the minimal radiation. The lead protects the patient and the room is cleared because the walls protect the parents and the pediatric dental staff.
We understand; a parent’s first and most important instinct is to keep their little one safe at any cost. These are the best two things to ask before the x-rays are taken so that you, your child, and your dental staff feels safe and comfortable.
- Ask for a thyroid shield. This is an extra lead collar that can be attached to the apron that fully protects the neck from under the ears to the collarbone. The thyroid is one of the most radiosensitive glands in children, so it’s important to keep your little cutie’s throat safe!
- Ask that x-rays only be taken when absolutely necessary for procedural knowledge. Considering the young age that dental work starts, it’s reasonable to be worried about the accumulation of radiation over time in your child’s lifespan. While it’s not suggested, it’s understandable for a parent to ask for this accommodation if there are no glaring dangers to your child’s oral health.
At Gentle Touch Smiles, we know that your child and their health will always come first. That’s why we offer high-quality care with our patients and their parents in mind. Contact us to ask questions or schedule an appointment online now; you won’t be disappointed!