X-rays in the dental chair carry a small but cumulative risk of causing cancer, and there are simple ways to reduce the risk.
One is to ask the dentist if he or she is using “fast” X-ray film, which allows a smaller X-ray exposure to get the same quality image.
The majority of dental offices still use the slow “D-speed” film, which the American Dental Association says should not be used. Better is to use E-speed or F-Speed, which can cut X-ray exposure by 60 percent.
Even better than film is digital imaging detectors which further cut radiation dose.
This and other tips are found in a New York Times article on high-dose radiation risks in dentistry, which are even greater with a new technology called cone-beam CT scanning, which creates 3-D images of the entire teeth and facial bones.
More questions to ask your dentist about radiation can be found in this list prepared by the Times reporters.
Read the whole report in the Times here.