Let’s Talk About X-rays with Dr. Nasem Dunlop of Treehouse Pediatric Dentistry in Foothill Ranch, CA | Irvine Moms

Hi all! I thought it would be a good time to talk about X-rays! Some of the most frequent questions I get asked in the office are about X-rays. Do my kids really need them? Is it safe? So I thought I’d share some of the basics when it comes to dental radiography and some of my favorite resources. This is a hot topic! Literally! 






When people are talking about radiation and dosages, they are referring to micro-Sieverts or mSv. Four bitewing (cavity detecting)  X-rays are 5 mSv total. To put this in perspective, I’ll share a few other interesting facts: 

  • The average person receives a dose of 10 mSv on the average day from background radiation like sunlight. 
  • 400 mSv is the yearly dose an average person gets from eating food! 
  • Bananas are radioactive at 0.1 mSv. 
  • The EPA put a yearly limit on radiation dosage to members of the public at 1,000 mSv. 

The risk of harm is dependent on both the dose and the dose rate, or in other words, the time that the body is exposed to that dose- so a large dosage over a greater period of time is less concerning than that same dosage in a very short period of time. Digital radiography significantly reduces the amount of radiation that patients are exposed to. I only recommend digital radiographs for children because of this!  In the office, we use the highest caliber machine that allows the lowest dosage of mSv. We always use a thyroid shield, and we lower the dosage to a “child-size” exposure time. In this way, I limit X-ray exposure to only that which is needed.  

Do my kids really need them? It depends! Some kids’ teeth are not touching and I can clearly see all the surfaces of the teeth, hence rendering x-rays not needed. On the flip side, if any two tooth surfaces are touching, I cannot complete a comprehensive exam and positively say your child has no cavities without x-rays of these closed spaces. Not taking x-rays can leave your child open to having undetected cavities. Small cavities detected by x-rays can be monitored with new hygiene routines or can be filled with a simple white filling, cavities seen by the naked eye typically are much larger and require more extensive treatment. It’s easiest on a child to restore a small cavity rather than waiting until the cavity is more severe and complex to treat. I always recommend a personalized x-ray plan for each child and after their first assessment a plan is made at the office utilizing the most precautious, safe plan for your child. 

Our office follows the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry when prescribing dental radiographs for children, adolescents and persons with special health care needs. These guidelines were adopted from the ADA and the FDA. The table pictured is very useful to help calm fears of radiation levels.  If you want to learn more about X-rays, go to this site by the ADA (https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/x-rays). 

As always feel free to ask me any questions! I am happy to sit down with you and work out a plan for your child’s specific dental needs! Call me at 949.668.0686.

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