Radiation is literally everywhere. A good amount of it is actually natural radiation, like that found in soil and rocks, cosmic rays from space, and even within your own body. But nearly half of human exposure to radiation is for dental or medical reasons, like the use of x-rays, CAT scans, and PET scans.
Too much radiation is a risk to health, of course, so it’s understandable why a lot of folks do whatever they can to minimize their exposure. Yet this can sometimes have some unintended consequences.
In Canada, a judge recently granted a father “sole responsibility” for his young sons’ medical and dental decisions because their mother wouldn’t allow them to get dental x-rays. This “resulted in one child receiving extensive, more painful treatments.”
The judge found no support for the mother’s concerns that allowing her older son to undergo x-rays at the dentist’s office unnecessarily exposed him to radiation. Instead, the court noted that the failure to permit the x-rays led to painful procedures that were not in her son’s best interest.
As a holistic, biological dental practice, we’re familiar with the mother’s concerns and do our utmost to minimize exposure to x-ray radiation for all of our patients (not to mention ourselves and our staff). At the same time, though, x-ray imaging remains a very important diagnostic tool in providing you with top-notch dental care. .
There is certainly value in the visual exam, but x-rays provide a picture of your teeth and gums that the naked eye can’t see, letting us look within your teeth and gums, giving us a better view of their health. We can see their roots and placement. We can see conditions in the underlying bone and adjacent structures.
And we can spot any emerging problems sooner, which may mean the solution is simpler – and less expensive – to fix.
Still, we don’t believe x-rays should be “routine.” While full mouth x-rays are an important part of your first visit, this is only necessary if you don’t already have a recent and suitable set another provider can share. After that initial visit, a biological dentist should request x-rays only when needed for specific treatment or further diagnosis.
When x-rays are necessary, going digital may be as safe as it gets. The exposure from our NOMAD Pro 2 unit, for instance, is estimated to be less than 1% of allowed occupational doses, emitting up to 90% less radiation than conventional x-rays.
There are many other benefits to digital x-rays, as well. For one, the process is more comfortable for patients – no more biting down on those weird film packs – and the images are instantaneous, high quality, and easy to share via email with your other healthcare providers or specialists if necessary.
Plus, because images are digital not film, there’s no need to have noxious chemicals in the office for processing – a benefit for patients, staff, and the environment!
X-rays aren’t entirely avoidable, but taking a minimally invasive approach certainly makes a difference for your oral and whole body healthcare needs.
X-ray image by Matt Cummings