Expert Advice

Are dental x-rays safe and how many do you need in a year?

Are dental x-rays safe and how many do you need in a year?
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They require exposure to very low levels of radiation—which makes the risk of potentially harmful effects very small—and most people only need one set taken every two years. The number of x-rays you need should be determined by your risk for gum disease and dental decay.
Trust the technology. Most conventional dental x-ray machines use high-speed film, which reduces your exposure to radiation, plus some dentists use digital x-rays, which use about 80 percent less radiation than conventional ones. In general, dental x-rays emit lower levels of radiation than other medical x-rays. Mammograms, for example, send out five times more radiation than dental x-rays, and people who live at high altitudes are regularly exposed to higher levels of natural radiation.
Keep getting x-rays. Radiographs show the condition of your teeth, their roots, jaw placement, and the composition of your facial bones. They can help detect the presence or degree of gum disease, abscesses, and abnormal growths.
Reduce your exposure. Check with your doctor if you have certain medical conditions or are undergoing treatments such as radiation therapy. Always mention these conditions or any changes in your health, and any other x-rays, you've had elsewhere.