X-rays are part of most routine dental exams, but many patients cringes at the thought of exposing themselves to radiation. Dental x-rays are an important tool your dentist uses to help you maintain quality oral health, and most dentists and other medical professionals consider x-rays a crucial component of patient care. To determine if radiation from x-rays is harmful, we need to first understand what an x-ray is.
What is an x-ray?
An x-ray uses energy in wave-form, similar to light waves. In fact, the only difference between light and x-rays is that light doesn’t have enough energy to travel through the human body, while x-rays do. Both forms of energy, however, can make an image on photographic film and are used to take pictures.
What is a rem?
This kind of rem is not the kind used when talking about sleep cycles or an awesome 80s band. It is a large unit of measurement used to measure radiation. Usually, the unit milllirem (mrem) is used. It takes 1000 mrem to equal 1 rem.
What else should you know about x-rays?
Advances in technology allow Dr. Fondriest to obtain a good x-ray image using much less radiation than what was once required. Typically, a dental x-ray will only expose you to about 2 or 3 mrem, making it an effective and safe aid for diagnosing any oral conditions or problems with your teeth or gums. The National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP) reports that the average U.S. resident absorbs about 360 mrem every year from background sources of radiation from space, radioactive materials in the earth, and small amounts of radioactive material in food, in addition to the radiation we absorb from other sources, including smoke detectors, living in a brick house, cooking with natural gas, reading books, and flying in an airplane.
Next time you’re at the dentist, don’t hesitate when your doctor calls for an x-ray. Dr. James Fondriest, a dentist in Lake Forest, Illinois, partially relies on x-rays to keep your mouth healthy by catching oral conditions in the earliest stages. If you’re due for a dental exam and cleaning, call us at (847) 234-0517.