Dental X-Rays

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At Simon Pong Dentistry, we get a lot of questions about dental x-rays from our patients. Questions like: Are x-rays safe? How much radiation do I get from a dental x-ray? How often do I need x-rays? Why do I need x-rays? Here are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about dental x-rays.

How often should I get dental x-rays?

Frequency depends on the current condition of your mouth and your dental history. Do you frequently get cavities? If you answer yes, then you may require x-rays annually. If you haven’t had a cavity in five years, then you can go years between x-rays.

Considerations include:

  • Diet. Does your diet include sugar, soft drinks, energy drinks, acidic foods, and/or is it high in carbohydrates? These types of foods and drinks can increase your risk of enamel breakdown and tooth decay.
  • Home care. Many patients, both young and elderly, have difficulty cleaning their teeth. In some cases this may be the result of an illness like a stroke or Alzheimer’s.
  • Advanced periodontal disease (severe gum disease resulting in bleeding gums and advanced bone loss). Bone loss is measured with a periodontal probe that acts like a ruler and visually illustrates the disease through radiographs. Panorex x-ray is an excellent way to see the entire jaw bone and measure periodontal advancement.

What’s safe for dental x-rays?

  • Many countries have adopted the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommendation of 20mSv per year.
  • Digital x-rays produce a very low level of radiation and are considered safe.

Considerations include:

  • Pregnancy. X-rays are considered safe during pregnancy, although radiographs are taken only when necessary, or in an emergency situation. A single dose of radiation (one small x-ray) is sufficient. Exposure to larger doses of radiation may cause adverse effects in a developing fetus, however, there is no increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects.
  • The average person gets 3mSv per year, which is well below the average recommendation for a safe level. Half of this radiation comes from background radiation, such as natural radiation from radon in the air.

Radiation Comparison*

  • Dental X-rays, 4 small intra-oral films 0.005mSv
  • Panorex dental X-ray 0.01mSv
  • Chest X-ray 0.1mSv
  • Mammogram 0.4mSv
  • Natural radiation exposure 2mSv
  • Airline Crew NYC-Tokyo annually 9mSv
  • Full body CT scan 10mSv
  • Recommended limit for radiation workers every 5 years 100mSV
  • Exposed Chernobyl residents 350mSv
  • Single dose which could cause radiation sickness, nausea, but not death 1,000mSv
  • Fatal within weeks 10,000mSv

Unlike x-rays, cell phones and cordless phones use radio frequency radiation. This radiation is different from x-ray radiation, and it is unknown at this time what the health risks are associated with cell use.

*World Nuclear Association,

For more information about dental x-rays, or any other dental-related concerns, contact Simon Pong Dentistry.

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