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Dental X-Rays… Who Cares?

Dr. Robert Peracchia and his team at Central Park West Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics take radiation exposure very seriously.

We do so because:

1. Our patients are wonderful children and we want to provide them with the best possible care and

2. We are exposing ourselves everyday taking these x-ray images.

   The reality is that we all live with radiation.  Every day we are exposed to small amounts of radiation from our environment. This radiation comes from outer space, the ground, building materials, air, and water. This is called natural background radiation. The amount of this radiation to which we are exposed depends upon where we live. For example, those who live in higher elevations (such as Denver, Colorado) are exposed to more radiation from outer space than people who live at sea level or the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

  In Dentistry we use x-ray images to assist us in making a diagnosis.  These images help us detect disease that we may not be able to see with our eyes.  We need to find a balance for our patients that minimizes radiation exposure and does not risk undiagnosed disease.  We do not want to lose the opportunity to treat a problem at the ideal time.

  To minimize radiation exposure we follow the guidelines set forth by the ADA Council of Scientific Affairs and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. We assess each child’s risk for dental disease, their stage of dental development and then we make individual recommendations for the appropriate radiographic images. We use the latest digital radiographic equipment. We use protective lead aprons and thyroid collars to minimize expose.

  The millisievert (mSv) is a measure of effective radiation dose to the body. One way of assessing the dental radiation risks is to compare the radiation doses that result from dental images with estimates of equivalent amounts of natural background radiation. 

Table 1. Comparison of Radiation Effective Dose (RED) from Various Dental and Medical Image

Procedures VS. Natural Background Radiation

Key:  Radiation Effective Dose: RED

          Natural Background Radiation: NBR



In dentistry, there are different types of radiographs taken, each portraying different views of your child’s teeth, jaw and even developing teeth not seen in the oral cavity. These different radiographs show dental professionals not only cavities but underlying structures, developing teeth, missing or extra teeth and even pathologies (ex. cysts, tumors and etc.).

Maxillary (Top front teeth) & Mandibular (Bottom front teeth) Occlusal X-rays





Bitewing X-rays






Periapical X-rays






Panoramic X-rays







Cephalometric X-rays

[Note: All images were taken from Google Images]



If you would like to read more about the safety of Dental Radiology in children, an excellent resource is Image Gently.  Image Gently is the educational and awareness campaign created by the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, formed in July 2007. It is a coalition of healthcare organizations dedicated to providing safe, high quality pediatric imaging nationwide. The Society for Pediatric Radiology as well as over 33 other societies (including the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology) are members of this coalition representing more than 500,000 health care professionals in radiology, dentistry, pediatrics, medical physics, and radiation safety.



  • American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs. The use of dental radiographs: Update and recommendations. J Am Dent Assoc 2006;137(9):1304-12