How dangerous is it?
You’ve likely had x-rays taken by your dentist or orthodontist before. That’s because x-rays can be a powerful diagnostic tool, but there are concerns about radiation.
The thing is, that much of the negative connotations of x-rays stem from an era when x-rays came with higher doses of radiation. So, some people are still uncertain about having their teeth x-rayed.
It’s a valid concern. I mean, you don’t want your mouth – or any part of your body – being exposed to radiation unnecessarily. Fortunately, with the medical technology used today you don’t have to worry about radiation from x-rays, at all.
How much radiation?
When x-rays first began, doses were large and uncontrolled, etching a long-lasting fear of radiation in the minds of patients. Today, orthodontists will use digital x-rays to image your teeth.
The radiation from digital x-rays is as little as 10 percent of the radiation you would have received in the era of film x-rays. If you’re worried about the radiation associated with dental x-rays, it might help to put it into context.
The dosage of X-ray radiation received by a dental patient is usually equivalent to a few days’ worth of background environmental radiation exposure. It’s similar to the dose received during a cross-country aeroplane flight, or to eating 100 grams of Brazil nuts.
What are the benefits and risks?
Like many other parts of the world, Australia requires dentists to have a license prior to requesting an x-ray. This means experts have decided they’re competent to request one safely, without putting your child at risk.
Even with that licensing, how do you know your orthodontist is making a sensible request that comes with benefits?
In an ideal world, your orthodontist would slap the braces on and they’d fit like magic. In the real world, an orthodontist needs a complete picture of someone’s teeth and jaw structure so their braces will do the job.
Your orthodontist will interpret the x-rays to see which areas are problematic. An x-ray allows them to see what’s normal, and to figure out how to give you or your child the best oral health outcomes.
At future visits, they’ll check to see if the braces in-situ are still an appropriate fit, allowing them to make adjustments that give the best results.
At the end of treatment, you or your child will benefit from straighter teeth, have a better smile, and have improved oral health. This makes chewing, talking, and playing instruments easier and leads to the best outcomes, thanks to accurate diagnostics.
If you have any questions about the x-rays your child will receive during their orthodontic treatment, don’t hesitate to ask their orthodontist.