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What Your Dental Office Staff Should Know About X-Ray Safety

What Your Dental Office Staff Should Know About X-Ray Safety


Dental X-rays – otherwise known as radiographs – are an integral aspect of modern dental practices. 


Safco Dental Supply is proud to serve as your primary source not only for top-tier dental supplies but for useful information within the dental field, as well. 


Within this article, we will cover the various uses of X-rays and address concerns that typically accompany their use in dentistry. 


What are Dental X-Rays and What are They Used For?

Dental X-rays are radiographic images that are used to examine the teeth and jaw bones that can not otherwise be seen and/or examined during an intra-oral examination.


Low levels of radiation pass through the soft tissues of the mouth and create images of the teeth and bones. Because teeth and bones are radiopaque and absorb X-rays, they show up as sharp white objects on the radiograph, whereas the soft tissues that allow the beam of radiation to pass through are radiolucent and show up as varying shades of gray.


X-rays are typically used to identify the following:

  • The number of teeth that are present inside the mouth
  • The position of the teeth inside the jaw
  • Bone loss (typically caused by periodontal disease)
  • Fractures and/or lesions in the jaw
  • Occlusal issues
  • Tooth decay
  • Oral infections


The Types of Dental X-Rays

Dental x-rays can be broken into two main categories: intraoral (inside the mouth), and extraoral (outside the mouth).


Below are some of the most typically used intraoral dental x-rays:

  • Periapical: Used to evaluate the crowns and roots of teeth. Can also be used to evaluate the health of the jaw bone that surrounds the roots of the teeth.
  • Bitewings: Used to evaluate the crowns of both the upper and lower arches of posterior teeth. 
  • Occlusal: Used to evaluate the arch of teeth on either the upper or lower jaw as a whole. Typically used to locate salivary stones.


Below are some of the most typically used extraoral dental X-rays:

  • Panoramic: Used to examine all of the teeth that are present inside the mouth in one image. Useful for examining the wisdom teeth, maxillary sinuses, and the jaw.
  • Cone Beam CT (CBCT): A three-dimensional radiograph that is used to examine the teeth and jaw. Provides accurate measurements that can be used for dental implant treatment and can provide further information about impacted teeth.
  • Cephalometric: Useful for orthodontic treatment, as this type of radiograph shows the entire head from an external view – typically from an anterior or lateral aspect.


Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

In most cases, the question that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue is: “Are dental x-rays safe?


In short, yes. When performed correctly by a trained dental professional and with the use of protective gear, dental X-rays are safe.


It’s important to keep in mind that we receive radiation from various things in our immediate environments, such as:

  • The sun
  • The air
  • Soil
  • Buildings
  • Cell phones
  • Airplane flights


According to the American Dental Association (ADA), radiation exposure from dental X-rays is quite minimal when compared to these other sources of radiation in our daily lives – especially when proper radiation protection steps are taken.


How to Protect from Radiation Exposure

Of course, there is a small amount of radiation exposure to consider when taking dental x-rays. 


Patients can be protected against radiation exposure with the use of leaded aprons and thyroid collars. Leaded aprons block radiation waves from penetrating the body, while a thyroid collar protects the thyroid gland, which has proven to be exceptionally sensitive to radiation. Lead-free aprons are also available offering radiation protection while being 25% lighter.


CBCT pano aprons can be used to protect patients during CT (CBCT) scans, offering both front and back protection.


So, how many dental X-rays are safe in a year? Healthy adults are typically recommended to receive dental X-rays every 24 to 36 months. The amount of X-rays that are considered to be “safe” for the patient depends upon their medical history, age, and the type of x-ray that is being taken.


Special Considerations: Children, Pregnant Women, Individuals with Previous High Radiation Exposure

While dental X-rays are generally safe, there are special considerations, such as:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • Individuals with previous high radiation exposure


In the case that a pregnant woman needs to have dental x-rays taken in order to diagnose or treat an issue, dentists will typically work in conjunction with the woman’s gynecologist to receive permission to take the images, as well as to ensure that both mother and fetus are as protected as possible.


In order to protect children during dental x-rays, the following guidelines have been developed:

  • Focus the X-ray beam on the treatment area
  • Use a thyroid collar
  • Limit X-ray exposure to “child-size” dose
  • Use a fast image receptor
  • Take X-rays based upon the needs of the patient, not based on routine
  • Use CBCT scanning technology only when absolutely necessary
  • Use up-to-date technology and equipment


In the case that a patient has high rates of previous radiation exposure, the above steps are typically followed, as well. In this case, radiographs are taken only when needed, and all possible protective measures are taken. 

The dentist may also work in conjunction with the patient’s other healthcare providers to ensure that they are taking all possible (and necessary) precautions.


How Technology is Improving the Safety of Dental X-Rays

As technology improves and expands in all other aspects of our lives, it is expanding and improving in the dental field, as well. 


In regards to dental X-rays, the technological improvements that have been made in recent years have provided a convenient and safe X-ray process for both patient and provider alike.


Traditionally, dental X-rays were taken using physical film that was developed on-site for use in clinical aspects. Modern dental X-rays are completely digital, providing the following benefits:

  • Lower radiation: How safe are digital dental X-rays? In contrast with traditional film X-rays, digital dental X-rays create a 90% lower radiation dose.
  • Comfort: Digital X-ray sensors are much more compact and designed to be much more comfortable inside the mouth than the paper tabs that were used with traditional dental X-rays.
  • Speed: Digital X-rays appear immediately after being taken and can be used for diagnostic and clinical purposes right away. There is no wait time for processing and development.
  • Storage: Digital X-rays are stored digitally, making them easy to store and access at any time.
  • Accuracy: Modern digital imaging technology allows dental professionals to capture accurate and clear images.


Safco Dental Supply: Best Dental X-Ray Equipment and Supplies Online

For high-quality instruments and dental equipment, place your trust in Safco Dental Supply. We provide a wide range of dental products and equipment to fit every need, with free shipping on orders over $250. 


We strive to get you your products as fast as possible. All orders placed before 4:30 pm CST (3:30 pm on Friday) are shipped out same-day.

Give us a call at 800.621.2178 to speak with one of our experts about professional dental hygiene equipment and supplies.


To support your practice, learn more about essential dental equipment and supplies from our team of experts.

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