I went to the dentist yesterday for a routine check up and cleaning. (I’m happy to report that I have no cavities!) As the days got closer to my appointment, I found myself thinking about the dental x-rays and wondering about radiation exposure. As a cancer survivor, the last thing that I want or need in my body is more radiation. The RAI (Radioactive Iodine - also known as I-131) was more than enough for me, thank you. I know that there is radiation in the x-rays, but didn’t know how much.
Knowledge is Power! I have the means to find out and educate myself on radiation. And that is what I did. I started with the FDA site and found an article called “Reducing Radiation for Medical X-rays” that had tons of information. I didn’t know the specifics about x-rays until I read it in the FDA article. It said “X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation that can penetrate clothing, body tissue, and internal organs. An X-ray machine sends this radiation through the body. Some of the radiation emerges on the other side of the body, where it exposes film or is absorbed by a digital detector to create an image. And some of it is absorbed in body tissues. It is the radiation absorbed by the body that contributes to the “radiation dose” a patient gets.”
The FDA also had this short video on their site about radiation and x-rays:
The more research I found, the more concerned I got. Advancements in technology are leading to new kinds of scanners, like the cone-beam CT scanner used at many dental offices. According to the NY Times article Radiation Worries for Children in Dentists’ Chairs, “Some states have in effect no inspections of dental X-ray units,” said Dr. G. Donald Frey, professor of radiology at the Medical University of South Carolina and a past president of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. While inspectors generally evaluate machine performance, few attempt to measure the overall radiation risk to the patient’s organs. “States tend not to want to regulate the practice of medicine or dentistry,” Dr. Frey said.
The real “jaw dropper” was the video called “The Price of a Smile” posted by the NY Times. This video digs a little deeper into some of the new technology embraced by some dentists and orthodontists. It really makes you wonder if money has become more important than health. Here is the video: http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/11/22/us/1248069363524/the-price-of-a-smile.html.
My vision for this post was to share information on radiation and x-rays used in the dental profession as well as other medical professions. However, after reading a few articles and watching a couple short videos on the dental industry’s use of x-rays and scans, I found more than I expected. It was more than I wanted to be “exposed” to.
As for my dental visit, I was never even asked to have any x-rays done. I had them over a year ago, but they did not see the need for them during my visit. Go figure! (Oh and I’m happy to report no cavities.)