Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

For many Australians, dental x-rays are the only form of radiation they receive on a regular basis. While unnecessary radiation should always be avoided, dental x-rays can help spot problems early on when they are easy to treat. It is only natural to wonder then, are Dental X-rays safe?

The answer is yes, a standard dental X-ray is estimated to emit 0.005 mSv. That is about the same amount of radiation exposure you would get from a day’s worth of natural background radiation.

Dentists will tell you that bite-wing x-rays that are done properly only expose you to the same amount of radiation that a two-hour plane ride would. This procedure exposes you to much less radiation than other imaging procedures, which is why many people consider it safe to get dental x-rays. A set of bite-wing x-rays, the most commonly done procedure, produce about .005 millisieverts of radiation.

Are There Different Dental X-ray Types?

In recent years, most repeatable dental practices have moved away from the older analogue x-ray imaging to the newer and higher fidelity digital x-rays.

 Digital x-rays offer high-resolution images within minutes of the dentist taking the scan so you can see your results right away. This type of x-ray is also much safer compared to older analogue x-ray system that typically used higher dosages of radiation.

Bite-wings, the most common type, shows the dentist both the upper and lower posterior teeth. They are useful for determining if there is decay between the back teeth. They also give your dentist an idea of how your teeth are touching each other in the back.

How Often Should I Have a Dental X-ray?

Ultimately, the frequency of dental x-rays will depend on the individual’s needs. If you have a history of dental problems or a lot of decay, you may need to get dental x-rays every 6 months. On the other hand, if you have a history of healthy teeth and gums, you can likely have them done every other year.

If you are a new patient with a dentist, you can expect them to want to do x-rays. It gives them a baseline to see how your teeth change over the years. You can always request they have your records sent over from your previous dentist, especially if you had x-rays done recently.

Children have different guidelines for how often they should have dental x-rays. Before their first permanent tooth erupts, they need them done every 1-2 years. This is only the case if the teeth are touching and some surfaces cannot be visually examined. After permanent teeth come in, the guideline changes to once every 18-36 months.

Are Dental X-rays Safe When Pregnant? 

Generally speaking, you can have dental x-rays when you are pregnant without any negative consequences to your baby. Any single x-ray has enough radiation in it to harm your developing embryo or fetus, according to the American College of Radiology. Since keeping your mouth healthy during pregnancy is very important, you should consider getting necessary dental x-rays.

If you have no history of dental issues, you can choose to wait until after your pregnancy to have the x-rays taken. Some women like to wait until they are in their second trimester before having them taken. This is because the fetus is at its most vulnerable during the first trimester. Keep in mind there is no evidence saying that it is unsafe to have dental x-rays in the early days of pregnancy.

As you approach the end of your pregnancy, you may find that dentists are more reluctant to do any major work. Unless it is an emergency, dental work is usually postponed until after you give birth once you hit the third trimester.

Are Dental X-rays Safe while Breastfeeding? 

It is considered perfectly safe to get dental x-rays while you are breastfeeding. While it is true that some living cells may be killed in your breast milk, there is no way any radiation will be transferred to your baby. There is no reason to pump and dump the milk.

In fact, most x-rays are safe during breastfeeding, even chest ones. The only ones that should cause any concern are those that involve injecting radioactive isotopes. In this situation, it will become necessary to pump and dump your milk.

As always, you can choose to hold off on getting your x-rays. If you have a healthy mouth, there is no reason to do something that makes you uncomfortable.

Are Dental X-rays Safe for Toddlers? 

Dental x-rays are considered safe for toddlers, but extra precautions should be taken. It is especially important to shield the thyroid of young children, as they are particularly vulnerable to the radiation.

The x-ray exposure time can is shortened because children have smaller teeth than adults. The exposure parameters should also be on the lowest possible setting. A good pediatric dentist with experience giving toddlers x-rays should be able to do so without exposing your child to unnecessarily risk.

Before agreeing to the procedure, be sure to talk to your child’s dentist to fully understand why they want to take x-rays and the safety precautions that will be taken.


Changes in technology and advancements digital x-rays has made getting an X-ray from the dentist safer than ever. Gentle Dental Drayton uses modern imaging equipment and our dentists are trained to make sure patients receive the smallest amount of exposure to radiation as possible.

If there are any concerns, please discuss it with the person taking the x-ray.

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