Most folks know that dental X-rays, and any X-ray for that matter, use low-dose radiation to take a picture inside of your body. Some folks know that radiation can cause cancer. Radiation is also used to treat cancer. Should you be afraid that dental X-rays might cause cancer decades down the line for your children?
Understanding ionizing radiation
X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation that is known to cause cancer. Those exposed to ionizing radiation for a long time are at greater risk of developing certain types of cancer than others who have not. However, the amount of ionizing radiation that is found in X-rays is not significantly more than the ionizing radiation that you are exposed to from any of a number of other sources, including the sun. Those who spend a long time unprotected at the beach are also at increased risk of developing certain types of cancers.
So while it’s true that ionizing radiation is a risk factor for developing cancer, X-rays don’t add a significant amount of ionizing radiation to your daily dose. In fact, one X-ray provides only 1.6% of all the ionizing radiation that you will be exposed to in a single day.
Children and ionizing radiation
Yes, it’s true that children are more at risk of developing cancer from ionizing radiation than adults. It is also true that your dentist is well aware of that fact and takes strict safety precautions to ensure that doesn’t happen.
You may remember back to high school chemistry when you learned about certain types of energy and how it can pass straight through solid objects. X-rays are certainly a type of energy that can do that and, in fact, it’s very good that it can. For children, dentists always recommend using lead aprons to protect the parts of their bodies that we don’t need to see inside.
How does ionizing radiation damage your body?
Ionizing radiation knocks the electrons from the nucleus of atoms causing free radicals. In most cases, the damage is repaired without consequence. Sometimes, the damage is not repaired properly and when the cell divides, as it always does, the cell isn’t copied perfectly. The cell thus becomes cancerous. Most of the time, these cancer cells just die off. In fact, cancer is something that is happening all the time in your body, but your body has a way to identify those cancerous cells and destroy them before they spread. When they can’t, then you have cancer.
Radiation doesn’t just harm healthy cells. It also harms cancer cells as well. That’s why radiation is used to kill cancer. The radiation is targeted at the cancer cells.
Is Radiation from Dental X-Rays Safe? The Bottom Line
X-rays produce radiation that can cause cancer. However, it does not produce significantly more radiation than an average person would be exposed to on a normal day. The dose is high, but it is not sustained over a long period of time, meaning that the cells have a chance to repair themselves and discharge any cancer cells that are produced in the process. In other words, an X-ray will not significantly increase your chances of getting cancer.
Talk to a Dentist Today
If you have any concerns about X-rays and your children, do not hesitate to call Peak Family Dental Care in Cottonwood today, so that we can discuss your options and your expectations.