Tooth decay can be sneaky – it doesn’t tend to show signs of its presence early on. X-rays are an important diagnostic tool that allows your dentist to confirm if you have tooth decay, or if you have any problems such as infection around the roots of the tooth, or bone loss. Spotting it early means your dentist can deal with the problem before it becomes significant.
Regardless of whether you’re a child or an adult, you can have X-rays safely taken of the inside and outside of your mouth. The amount of radiation involved is extremely low, and is equivalent to the sort of exposure you’d receive on a 1-2 hour flight. This means that even if you’re pregnant you can have X-rays taken, although they are generally kept to a minimum during this period.
Oh, and that thing about your dentist leaving the room while the X-rays are taken? Nothing to worry about there – they’re taking lots of X-rays all day long and stepping out of the room limits their ongoing exposure to radiation.
Rosewood Dental has invested in digital radiography. These produce sharp images that are available for viewing on a computer screen instantly- no waiting for processing and developing the film. It provides us with quick and accurate radiographic images which will aid in the diagnosis of tooth, bone and gum diseases. More importantly, the use of digital technology means that the exposure to radiation is a fraction of the radiation for film based X-rays making it an extremely safe procedure for patients. The dentist must ensure that radiological examinations are carried out properly at all times during the course of dental treatment.
We can compare just how small dental radiation is with the natural environmental background radiation we receive everyday, and other x-ray/radiation sources in the table below.
Table 1: Typical doses from some dental and medical radiographic examinations as well as air travel (After: Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency: Draft Code of Practice and Safety Guide for Radiation Protection in Dentistry (in preparation)).
1. Natural background radiation is approximately 2 mSv per year in Australia.
2. X-ray tube focus to skin distance
2.The radiation dose during air travel is due to increased exposure to cosmic radiation
The above quoted doses for dental radiography are small when compared with the total amount of background radiation received during the patient’s lifetime of, say, 25,000 days. It is also surprising how much extra radiation we receive during flights just from going higher into the atmosphere. However, these figures are not intended to encourage ‘routine’ radiography. Overall, we always try to keep radiation exposures ‘as low as reasonably possible’: there must be a definite clinical need for the radiographic record for diagnosis. With current digital technology, radiation exposure is so minimal that a lead apron is not required for most cases.
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