A recent study sparked some concern over dental X-rays. The study contended that a certain type of brain tumor could be connected to frequent childhood dental X-rays. It is very important to note that X-ray technology has changed a lot over the years and what you currently get at Dr. Vancil and the Mall of Georgia Dentistry office probably would not be comparable to what most of the study subjects would have gotten in their childhood.
Many of the patients in the study would have received X-rays well over 40 or 50 years ago, prior to new technology and digital X-rays. Older X-ray machines were much larger, exposing a greater area of the head, and several seconds of exposure was needed to obtain the image. Since 1982, better machines and film speeds have continued to reduce the exposure. Modern X-rays are digital, are taken in just a few tenths of a second, and are limited to very specific, much smaller areas.
Measured in millirems (mrem), the average American gets about 360 mrems of radiation exposure in a year from a variety of background sources, such as the natural radioactivity in the earth and cosmic rays from outer space. A traditional film dental X-ray is approximately 2 or 3 mrems. A full set of 18 digital X-rays which we utilize at Mall of Georgia Dentistry is 6 mrems, or 0.33 mrems per X-ray. By comparison, a cross-country flight exposes you to about 5 mrems, and a mammogram exposes you to at least 13 mrems of radiation. Dental X-rays are actually one of the lowest non-background sources of radiation exposure.
Dental X-rays are an excellent diagnostic tool with many benefits, but there is no need to use them to excess. It is 100% impossible to see in between teeth and see the supporting bone level without an X-ray. An exam without an X-ray is comparable to looking at only the top teeth and not the bottom teeth, or looking with the lights turned out. If you are worried about unnecessary exposure to radiation, talk to Dr. Vancil or your dentist about what is best for you. The frequency of taking new X-rays will depend on your specific symptoms and your individual oral health situation, and in many cases the benefits outweigh the risk!