There are two aspects to doing the X-ray. There is the positive aspect: the x-rays can generate an image of different body structures, which helps the doctors and dentists to detect the condition, a good or bad one, and a way to treat it. However, do the x-rays have a negative aspect? Some people seem to think so. The very word radiation sends shivers down their spine; it reminds them of the images of atomic bomb and other destructions. X-rays, in fact, are a form of radiation. However, instead of being a tool of destruction, it is an important tool for diagnosing and treating different areas of human body, including the teeth.

What is an x-ray? It is a form of wave energy which is powerful enough to go through your body. Why does a dentist take an x-ray image of your teeth? If you take a look at your teeth in a mirror, you will be able to see only your gum and teeth surface, and that is exactly what your dentist sees. So, the dentist uses the x-rays in order to detect small areas between the teeth infected with plaque, which are easier to detect and treat in the early phase. Also, x-rays make it possible for the dentist to see whether you need a root canal treatment or a crown. An x-ray image will, also, show whether there are any kinds of excrescence inside the bone such as tumours, which are rare.

On average, most people visit their dentist only once a year, mostly to remove the plaque. How much radiation is one exposed to during a dental appointment which includes an x-ray? The rate of radiation is measured in millirems or mrems. For every annual dental check-up you will receive from 0.5 to 3 mrems. What does it mean when compared with other types of radiation?

* 1 mrem a year: from smoke detectors
* 5 mrems: a flight over an ocean due to the altitude
* 10 mrems a year: cooking with natural (radon) gas
* 10 mrems a year: living in a brick house (radioactive particles used in construction)
* 36 mrems a year: smoking a pack of cigarettes a day

What happens if we compare the amount of radiation during a dentist RTG diagnostics and other medical procedures?

* Chest x-ray: 10 mrems
* Mammography: 40 mrems
* Hip x-ray: 65 mrems
* Spine x-ray: 120 mrems
* Skull x-ray: 200 mrems

No exposure to the radiation is completely safe and that kind of exposure accumulates through time. Children may be in a particular danger from the overexposure to the radiation. Still, most people will benefit more from doing the annual dental check-ups, even with a small amount of radiation.