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The TRUTH about dental X-RAYS

There is a lot of misinformation that’s out there about dental x-rays and the potential side effects from them.  I know that every once in a while, Dr. Oz will get on his show and talk about how dental x-rays are bad, how you shouldn’t get dental x-rays and the dentist just recommends them way too often.  The fact of the matter is, with the digital technology that we have, we’re able to limit the amount of radiation exposure that dental x-rays will produce.  

The reason that’s important to know is that dental x-rays are something that are very important diagnostically for me.  If you were a new patient to my office and you said, “Look, no x-rays for me,” that would be very hard for me to do my job and to diagnose you properly.  I don’t have x-ray vision, I can’t see in between your teeth with my eyes, and cavities that are in between the teeth are very difficult to diagnose without the use of an x-ray.  Without a full set of dental x-rays, I’m not able to see the roots of the teeth in the bone, so I’m not able to check and see if you have gum disease, or if you have an abscess, or if you have a large cavity in between the teeth that’s getting ready to cause an abscess and cause you pain.

In my office, we have a piece of dental equipment that is handheld.  The dental assistant can actually hold the x-ray machine that’s emitting the x-rays in her hand and stand right beside you.  By different ways of protection built within the unit, the dental practitioner is not at risk.  So if a dental practitioner can stand with the x-ray machine and shoot dental x-rays all day long with no risk, getting x-rays every six months or every year is not a huge deal.  Using dental x-rays on a routine basis allows your dental team to stop decay early, prevent tooth pain, or tooth breakage.

That’s something that Dr. Oz doesn’t really always have the facts straight on.  With the technology we have, you could go outside and stand in the sun for five minutes, or going on an airplane ride can expose you to more radiation than what a full mouth set of dental x-rays would be.

Dr. Oz is not a dentist, do not listen to everything that Dr. Oz has to say. Something that’s always kind of stuck in my mind from my Mass Communications course my freshman year of college is that the media exists to make money. And so if Dr. Oz can have flashing lights and say, “Do not go to the dentist, and do not get your dental x-rays taken,” that gets your attention, doesn’t it?  Be an educated consumer.  Talk with your dentist, or dental hygienist, about the risks and the benefits. Typically, x-rays’ benefits outweigh the risk.


Dr. Cyndi Blalock is a general dentist practicing in St. Peters, MO.  Her office Cardinal Dental is known for redefining what a dental experience should be.  She is accepting new patients, and can be reached at 636-441-7440.