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How to Detect Radiation at the Dentist

How to Detect Radiation Exposure at the Dentist

You probably know that when you get mouth X-rays at the dental office to check your oral health, you are exposed to a bit of radiation. That’s why the dentist will put that heavy vest on your torso – to protect you from the exposure.

Have you ever wondered how much radiation you’re being exposed to and whether it’s safe? Will a visit to the dentist have long-term consequences from the radiation exposure? Here is more information about levels of radiation at the dentist, as well as how to detect radiation with radiation detection equipment.

Is Dental Radiation Exposure Dangerous to Your Health?

The American Dental Association explains that the dental industry does everything it can to make the X-ray process as safe as possible. It follows the ALARA principle, which includes steps to make the exposure As Low As Reasonably Achievable. The dentist will use methods and tools that help minimize your exposure. This includes the leaded apron mentioned earlier, as well as a leaded thyroid collar. Also, dentists have to follow regulations and laws that specify how radiation can be used, and have guidelines from the FDA and ADA in regards to using it in the best and safest way.

On Medscape, Sotirios Tetradis, DDS, PhD, and Stuart C. White, DDS, PhD, explain that the radiation level to the brain from a full-mouth exam is about 0.24 mGy, which is significantly higher than if you only have four bitewings or a panoramic exam. Nonetheless, even the full-mouth exam is much lower than exposure from other sources of radiation. For example, the authors note that a head CT scan exposes the brain to 43 to 75 mGy. Overall, the authors “believe that dental radiography has the potential to cause harm,” but that the levels are so low that it’s not likely.

How to Detect Radiation

Even though the dental industry works to minimize patients’ radiation levels and keep the X-ray process safe, you might still be concerned about how much you’re exposed to. After all, these small radiation levels are added to other amounts you could be exposed to in your everyday life.

Whether you’re concerned or simply curious, it’s possible to learn more about your exposure. If you want to know how to detect radiation, you can use radiation detection equipment, such as Geiger counters. You can buy your own meter and test the radiation levels around you whenever you want, including when you go to the dentist. 

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