If you’re trying to live a more consciously healthy lifestyle, you’re probably looking at all the factors in your life that affect your health and well-being. One of these factors may be the amount of radiation you expose your body to each year. While doctors agree that in an ideal world absolutely no radiation exposure would be best, that’s just not realistic. You’re exposed to various types of radiation every single day, just by living on Earth. The human body has evolved to deal with and repair almost any tiny amount of damage that small doses of radiation does to it. This can include radiation from sunlight, the soil, your television and cigarette smoke in your environment, as well as from any dental X-rays you may need during your regular visits. But repair ability or not, is it worth exposing yourself to X-rays to get a slightly clearer view of your teeth?
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
In general, depending on where you live and travel, you receive between 3,000 and 4,000 units of radiation, known as micro-Sievarts, each year. For every basic bitewing X-ray, you’ll receive about 8 or 9 micro-Sievarts of radiation. Depending on your dental problems, the dentist might order more than one X-ray in a session. On the other hand, she might use a panoramic X-ray, which shows all the teeth and jaws at once, which can give you about 24 micro-Sievarts. Compared to the natural background radiation your body absorbs each day, dental X-rays add only a miniscule amount to the total.
The problems with X-rays arise because your body can only repair most of the damage that radiation does. Any remaining damage that isn’t fixed is cumulative: it builds up over time, combining with any other leftover damage and creating bigger and bigger problems. Everyone’s body is different, so there’s no way of knowing exactly how much radiation is enough to trigger a health problem such as thyroid troubles or various cancers. But compared to the possible problems that can be caused by not treating serious dental problems, radiation exposure is a very tiny risk.
WHY USE X-RAYS AT ALL?
If less radiation is better, why should you agree to purposely expose yourself to more of it in the form of dental X-rays? The fact is, X-rays are such a useful diagnostic tool that the benefit far outweighs the tiny risk posed by additional exposure. Your dentist will determine when X-rays are appropriate according to your oral health, your age and your chance of disease, so the X-rays won’t be required every time you visit the office. But sometimes they’re necessary to help your dentist make an informed diagnosis.
The tools and techniques used in your dentist’s office are designed to minimize your body’s exposure to radiation. All dentists follow the ALARA principle when taking X-rays, which is short for As Low As Reasonably Achievable. This means that she’ll use the absolute minimum amount of exposure to get the desired results. You’ll be protected with a leaded apron and a leaded thyroid collar to minimize exposure to your most vulnerable organs.
While a thorough examination is the first step in any dental procedure, your dentist can only see so much. A large percentage of dental problems happen inside the teeth, jawbone and gums, and the only way to see what’s going on is by using dental X-rays. Your dentist will use them to detect cavities, find cysts and abscesses, look for impacted teeth and even determine bone loss due to periodontal disease. X-rays are used to detect the most serious of all dental conditions and allow your dentist to treat them before they cause permanent damage.
When you’re ready to tackle those big dental procedures, only the most skilled Houston prosthodontists will do. Maple Leaf Dental can turn back time, replacing your damaged teeth with artificial ones that even your mother won’t notice. Call us at (281) 497-5558 or email us to get started. Your smile won’t wait forever!
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