Dental x-rays are important to see signs of dental disease or other dental problems. The good news is that they present few risks. The main health risk is from the exposure to radiation.

The level of radiation exposure from dental x-rays has always been low. Today, the use of new technologies reduces that exposure even more. Digital x-rays and high-speed x-ray film, for example, use very small amounts of radiation. A special device, called a collimator, is also used to prevent the spread of radiation beyond the specific area being x-rayed.

In addition, dentists will ask you to wear a lead-lined apron to protect your chest and stomach, and a collar around the neck to protect the thyroid.

Exposure to x-ray radiation can also be reduced by limiting the number of x-rays taken, especially for those people who are at low risk for dental disease. Patients should discuss their dental and overall health history with their dentist before deciding if x-rays are necessary. Any health concerns about having dental x-rays taken should be discussed as well. If a patient changes dentists or needs to see a specialist, recent x-rays can be sent to the new dentist. This will avoid the need to retake the x-rays.