Ask a Dentist

Q: How dangerous are x-rays? Do I need one every time I go in for a dental check-up?

A: A scan each year is typically enough, but it depends on your dental health. Rest assured, dental X-rays produce low levels of radiation—safe enough to use on children. Actually, the amount of radiation emitted from a dental x-ray scan is approximately the same amount as what you’d be exposed to on a short plane flight. Know that registered dentists should be following guidelines set by the Federal Government to protect patients from the harm due to x-ray scanning. This includes body shielding, x-ray maintenance and proper operator training.

The benefit of X-ray scanning is that it shows signs of problems your dentist can’t see from simply looking in the mouth, such as early tooth decay, gum disease, changes in the root canal and tumours. All of these issues are ones you will want to catch before they worsen.

Remember, your healthcare practitioners have chosen particular treatments because the positive outcomes outweigh the potential drawbacks. If you’re still concerned about X-rays, discuss the process with your dentist. Another way to prevent more-than-necessary X-ray scans is to transfer your dental history from your old practitioner to your new one. Something to keep in mind if you ever need to switch.