While x-rays are an important diagnostic tool in the fight for oral health, no law mandates that your dentist must take these images during every visit. In fact, many dentists and patients alike feel that it is better to space out x-rays and similar imaging techniques because each one exposes you to a tiny but still significant amount of radiation exposure.
When you're already being exposed to radiation during your work or due to other health concerns, limiting dental x-rays is a good idea. Learn five different ways to work with your dentist to reduce the number of xrays and other radiation exposure sources during routine dental care.
Switch to Digital
Just finding a dentist who has invested in digital x-ray equipment can reduce the amount of radiation exposure by 80% per x-ray. When you add that up over the course of the rest of your life, that's a huge reduction in the total amount of exposure just from a single change.
Digital x-rays don't expose on film, so only a very short radiation period is needed to send the right information to the sensors used in place of film. These x-rays are also higher definition, better able to capture the early warning signs of disease, and easier to instantly share with other doctors and dentists who coordinate on your care.
Discuss Your Health
Patients who are in good overall health generally do not need an x-ray every six months. At least one dental x-ray a year is recommended to catch serious issues with the teeth and jaw, but most dentists are happy to skip the imaging process every other visit in order to ease your mind about your radiation exposure.
However, you should discuss your concerns with your dentist before requesting a change in x-ray procedure. He or she may be keeping an eye on something they haven't mentioned yet and may not want to stop your usual x-ray routine just yet in case something develops rapidly in between imaging procedures.
Ask for Faster Film
If your dentist hasn't upgraded to digital x-ray equipment yet, they can still use a higher grade of film to reduce the radiation required to get a good shot on film. Normal speed x-ray material is known as D film, but E and F films are also available that require a shorter exposure period.
Ask your dentist to use a fast exposure film so you can keep an eye on what's going on under the surface while still getting as little radiation exposure as possible per year.
Most dentists use lead aprons and similar shields on child patients automatically, but these protective devices also work well when used on adults. Aside from just the basic chest and lap apron, ask specifically for a thyroid shield.
A thyroid shield is a high collar that attaches to a lead apron to specifically shield the sensitive thyroid gland in the throat without blocking any of your dental x-ray views.
Bring Your Own Images
If you're seeing multiple doctors or an oral surgeon for the treatment of a dental health issue, request digital or physical copies of the x-rays performed by your dentist. Bringing them along can reduce or eliminate the need for further x-rays to duplicate the same image.
Dental x-rays do need to be repeated sometimes to see if a treatment worked or to verify a problem that wasn't the focus of a previous shot, but keeping them on hand can at least reduce unnecessary duplication.
Discuss your concerns about x-rays with our dental team here at Edison C. Louie D.D.S, Inc., during your next visit. We are happy to adjust your treatment plan so you feel comfortable with all of the procedures and don't miss a cleaning over concerns about radiation exposure.