Are Dental X-Rays Safe? Here’s What You Should Know

Dentists want to provide the most comprehensive oral care to their patients, but they can’t always do that with a visual examination alone. Not all dental issues are visible to the naked eye. However, with dental x-rays, dentists can see problems that might be developing beneath the surface and recommend treatment while issues are still minor and easier to treat.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

There is no doubt that dental x-rays provide your dentist with one of the best ways to see below your teeth and gums so they can identify problems in their earliest stages. However, many dental patients are concerned about the safety of dental x-rays. So, it’s natural for them to ask the question, “Are dental x-rays safe?”

The short answer to that question is, “Yes, dental x-rays are safe.” If you know anything about x-rays, however, you probably know they use radiation to achieve their results. This is what people find so concerning. As far as radiation is concerned, the amount to which you are exposed is minimal. In fact, you are likely to pick up more radiation by being outside on a sunny day, taking an airplane or turning on your HVAC system. Some would argue that it’s riskier to skip dental x-rays because of the many negative implications for your oral health.

Safety Measures in Place

When x-rays were first introduced, dentists and other health professionals did not fully understand the danger of repeated radiation exposure. Features and procedures to make dental x-rays as safe as possible had not yet been developed. However, as knowledge and technology have advanced, the amount of radiation used and possible patient exposure to it has decreased dramatically.

At West Coast Dental, our team takes every protective measure possible to ensure our patients are safe. Although some studies show that protective aprons do little to protect patients during dental x-rays, the California Dental Association (CDA) still recommends using them. There is also a state law requiring the use of protective aprons to minimize exposure to the trunk of the patient’s body — particularly the reproductive organs.

Who Needs a Dental X-Ray?

Most people need a dental x-ray as part of their routine dental care. Your dentist needs dental x-rays to diagnose a problem that’s causing pain or to determine the structure of the mouth to place dental work.

Many issues can be discovered by an x-ray that are far worse than the minuscule amount of radiation involved. Some of these problems include:

  • Decay between the teeth
  • Issues with a root canal
  • Loss of bone
  • Growths or tumors
  • Infections

Without the benefit of dental x-rays, these problems can continue to grow over time — silently. By the time dentists discover them, patients could be looking at expensive dental treatments that could have been avoided with an x-ray. When it comes to dental health, prevention and early discovery are always easier, less expensive and less painful to fix.

Pregnant Women

Although most medical professionals agree that the chances of an x-ray impacting the health of the fetus are small, some women choose to avoid x-rays while they are pregnant. In most cases, putting off dental x-rays until after the first trimester or after the baby is born will not significantly impact the mother’s dental health. In the case of a dental emergency that will likely require an x-ray, pregnant women should not put off needed treatment.


The American Dental Association has guidelines for when and how often x-rays should be taken of children’s teeth. The frequency depends on several factors, such as a child’s oral health, the risk for dental disease and the child’s developmental stage. Dentists are encouraged to take x-rays of children’s mouths only when they are necessary to provide an accurate diagnosis of dental problems.

What Makes Digital Dental X-Rays Safer?

One of the ways the dental industry has made dental x-rays safer is the adoption of digital radiographs. Digital x-rays versus traditional x-rays mean patients are exposed to less radiation. Digital x-rays emit less radiation than their traditional counterparts, and they are faster. In addition, they provide us with a greater resolution that allows for the earlier intervention of dental issues. What does this mean for you? We can detect and address dental problems when treating them is less painful — and more affordable.

Patient safety is essential at West Coast Dental, and digital technology plays into that. Not only are digital x-rays safer because they emit less radiation, but they are quicker. So, patients experience less exposure time while they are in the dental chair.

Schedule a Visit to West Coast Dental Today

Would you like to learn how digital x-rays can play a part in your good oral health? Book an appointment with us today, or call us at 888-329-8111 to find out how digital technology can improve your experience at the dentist.


Cleveland Clinic – Dental X-Rays

California Dental Association (CDA) – The Reality of Dental Radiation

California Dental Association (CDA) – Protective Aprons Required During Dental Radiography

Mayo Clinic – Is It Safe to Have an X-ray During Pregnancy?

Image Gently – Dental X-rays for Children: What Parents Should Know

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