Monday, December 6, 2010

Dental X-Rays

A few weeks ago The New York Times published an article titled "Radiation Worries for Children in Dentists' Chairs".  Here's the link:

It focuses mainly on the radiation dose from a specific type of imaging device called a Cone Beam Ct Scanner or CBCT and it's potential abuse, but the title and content seem to blur the line between this technology and traditional dental x-rays.  The issue of dental and medical ionizing radiation can be confusing, and there's a lot of passionate and conflicting advice on the internet.  It's difficult to find reliable, unbiased, information on the topic.  I've found useful information at the Health Physics Society website:

The HPS is an independent nonprofit scientific organization devoted to radiation safety.  They're not affiliated with any government or industrial organization or private entity.

As parents, it's our duty to safeguard our children and make sound decisions for them.  It's unreasonable to expect every parent to be an expert on ionizing radiation.  So rather than getting into a technical discussion about radiation, I think it's more valuable to give you the following advice:

1.  Make sure your dentist knows about and practices the ALARA Principle.  ALARA stands for  "As Low As Reasonably Achievable".  ALARA means taking every reasonable effort to minimize the exposure to ionizing radiation.  For example, by reducing exposure times, utilizing shielding, utilizing proper technique, etc...

2.  Understand that dental x-rays should not be taken the same way for every patient.  If your dentist can't articulate to you the reason they are taking a particular x-ray...don't take it.  I don't take an x-ray unless either: 1. the risk of an undiagnosed dental disease outweighs the risk of the x-ray or 2. the x-ray is likely to have clinical implications...meaning that the results will affect treatment.  Children with poor hygiene, a history of trauma, or dental decay will typically require more x-rays than those with good hygiene, no trauma, and no decay.

I hope this helps!

Happy Holidays!

- Dr. Jeremy