The CDC defines radiation as “the emission of energy as electromagnetic waves or as moving subatomic particles, especially high-energy particles which cause ionization”. Over the years as we have learned more and more about radiation and its impact on the body, sources of radiation have raised some concerns. 

X-rays are a naturally occurring form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays are very common in the medical world, including visits to your local dentist office. How much radiation is your body exposed to during an x-ray, and do the benefits outweigh the risk? Let’s start by breaking down what an x-ray is and when they are necessary. 

What are Dental X-Rays

Dentists seek to provide the best possible care for the oral health of their patients. Unfortunately, looking at your teeth via visual examination does not provide a full overview. Dental X-Rays play a crucial role in the proper diagnosis and treatment of dental issues, often before they become a major problem. Dental X-Rays, or Radiographs allow your dentist to see both inside and in between your teeth. They also reveal the entire tooth, where a visual examination only allows you to see the portion that emerges from the gums. The roots and bone beneath reveals the full story of your oral health. X-Rays are used as a preventative diagnostic tool; without them, issues can go undetected until they become an emergency. Early detection is sure to save you time, money, and unnecessary discomfort! Below are some issues that a dental X-Ray will reveal:

  • Abscesses or cysts
  • Bone loss
  • Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors
  • Decay between the teeth
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Poor tooth and root positions
  • Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line

Are Dental X-Rays Dangerous?

Any exposure to radiation poses a level of risk. Dental X-rays are on the extremely low side of the spectrum, exposing your body to an amount of radiation equivalent to a day in the sun or a short ride on an airplane. Although the risk is minimal, the ADA requires dentists to take additional precautions such as leaded protection over sensitive areas such as the abdomen and thyroid, occupational exposure limits, only taking x-rays when necessary, informed consent & more. 

New digital x-ray equipment has been developed to reduce the amount of radiation exposure.  Digital X-rays reduce radiation 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays. To learn more about digital X-Rays, click here

How often are Dental X-Rays taken? 

The frequency of dental x-rays is dependent upon many factors including your age, existing medical conditions, signs & symptoms & more. An initial set of x-rays are typically taken for new patients for the dentist to get a full overview of your particular situation. These full set x-rays are necessary every few years, while other types of X-rays such as Panoramic X-Rays  are only taken as needed when issues are suspected. 


Dental X-rays do admit radiation, but the amount is minimal and should not be of concern. The benefits dental x-rays provide far outweigh the risks of radiation complications. If radiation is a concern to you, seek out a dentist who utilizes the newest forms of technology such as digital X-Rays to minimize radiation exposure. Both locations at Guilliot Family Dentistry are equipped with digital X-Rays and we do everything we can to minimize impacts of radiation exposure. If you are looking for a dentist but have some concerns about radiation, give us a call and we can work together towards the best and safest possible solution for you.