Patients are often concerned about dental x-rays and if they can affect their health. I think the fact you can’t see x-rays makes us naturally weary of them. Dentistry is one of the few areas in medicine where x-rays are regularly taken. I often reassure people that they are a very low dose of radiation and that a short flight is more, which usually surprises them. So a recent article caught my eye which explains the comparative amounts well and where radiation comes from naturally.
So, a quick science lesson!
- A millisievert is how absorption of radiation by the human body is measured.
- Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found all over the world it comes from the radioactive decay of natural uranium in the earth’s crust.
- Cosmic rays constant bombard the earth from space.
- Naturally occurring radioactivity is transferred to crops and animals from the rock and minerals in the soil. Drinking water can pick this up, as can fish and shellfish.
Science lesson over here are the numbers;
- A dental x-ray is 0.005mSv
- 100g of Brazil Nuts 0.01mSv
- Transatlantic flight 0.08mSv
UK average annual radiation dose is 2.7mSv with 48% of this is radioactive radon gas from the ground, 12% from Cosmic radiation.
So, the dose we are giving you is very small in comparison to everyday sources of radiation. Dental radiography is very important in detecting decay at an early stage. They are also very useful for looking at bone levels which indicate the amount of gum support the teeth have. They are vital for doing root canal therapy as teeth are all very different and we need to know what we are dealing with!
So next time it’s x-ray time don’t worry a bag of nuts gives you a higher dose!