Often we hear questions about radiation exposure and how much each dental xray exposes a patient to possibly harmful radiation. Here at Williamsburg Dental, we truly care about how much radiation we use on each patient. We worry about the same thing with our staff and family members. That is why we have invested heavily in the best technology so that radiation is used at the most minimal levels possible, while getting the clearest possible pictures.
We now use Dexis Platinum sensors in each practice, and use a Digital Panoramic Xray machine, the Instrumentarium OP-30. Each Dexis Sensor has such a high quality image, that each pixel is about 50 microns thick. That is such a high resolution that we can see much more than we could with the older plate xrays.
To give you an idea on how small the exposure can be, here a little lesson in physics. A unit called a “rem” is used to measure radiation. A rem is a large unit, much like a mile is a large unit of length, so we usually use a millirem (mrem) instead, much as you would measure in inches instead of miles for most purposes. (It takes 1000 mrem to equal one rem.)
Advances in x-ray equipment, especially film technology, allow your dentist to get a good x-ray image using much less radiation than was previously required. A typical dental x-ray image exposes you to only about 1 mrem. The National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP) says that the average resident of the U.S. receives about 360 mrem every year from background sources. This comes from outer space, radioactive materials in the earth, and small amounts of radioactive material in most foods we consume.
Some typical sources that may expose you to radiation also include smoke detectors (less than 1 mrem per year), living in a brick house instead of a wood one (about 10 mrem per year due to radioactive materials in the masonry), cooking with natural gas (about 10 mrem per year from radon gas in the natural gas supply), reading a book for 3 hours per day (about 1 mrem per year due to small amounts of radioactive materials in the wood used to make the paper), and even from flying in an airplane (about 5 mrem for one cross-country flight because of the increased altitude.) In fact, you receive about 2 mrem per year from sleeping next to someone! This is because all of us have very small amounts of naturally occurring radioactive materials in our bodies.
Obviously, you probably would not refuse to fly on an airplane, live in a brick house, read books, live without smoke detectors, or sleep with your spouse because of the small amount of radiation you receive from these activities. Since we gain much valuable information from the dental xrays, we recommend following the American Dental Association Guidelines, which are Bitewing xrays every year, and then a Pantomograph xray every 5 years. This will keep your exposure down greatly, and keep your teeth healthy!