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An x-ray for braces being used for orthodontic exam

Are X-Rays for Braces Safe? FAQs About Orthodontic X-Rays

Being aware of your body’s health is important in all things. From your dental health to your whole-body health, every doctor you have wants you to be the healthiest and happiest version of yourself! However, many patients are hesitant when they hear they may need x-rays for braces or treatment, due to the fear of radiation.

Read on to learn about why you may need x-rays for braces and why they’re nothing to worry about!

Do Orthodontic X-Rays Expose You to Radiation?

Yes, it’s true that dental x-rays (like any x-ray) will expose you to radiation. Before you say “case closed,” it’s important to understand exactly how much radiation it actually is – and why it’s not dangerous. Here are the facts about dental and orthodontic x-rays:

  • A sievert or millisievert (mSv) is the unit of measurement for ionized radiation like in x-rays
  • A dental x-ray exposes you to approximately .005 mSv
  • Natural radiation in the air we breathe exposes us to about 3 mSv per year
  • Certain natural foods like bananas and certain legumes can contribute to about 1 mSv per year
  • A flight can expose you to up to .03 mSv in just a few hours

While it is a fact that we should avoid radiation when possible, the reality is that we’re exposed to small doses of radiation every day. The risks associated with a dental x-ray are the lowest of all x-rays, and much lower than the typical radiation you’ll experience throughout even a fraction of the year.

Why Do We Need X-Rays for Braces?

Just like your general dentist uses x-rays to identify potential issues before they become symptomatic, your orthodontist uses x-rays for braces to figure out whether you need treatment, or to plan your treatment to correct issues that may be hidden to the naked eye.

Orthodontic treatment is more than just correcting the alignment of your visible teeth. It’s also about making space for teeth that may become impacted, ensuring the healthy bone growth in and around your jaw, and avoiding issues due to malformations that may affect your muscles or development.

In many cases, these issues are simply impossible to see without looking underneath the skin using specialized imaging tools like x-rays. By seeing what’s going on beneath the surface, your orthodontist can begin you on a treatment plan that prevents a problem from happening in the first place! You’ll grow up healthier, avoid potential surgery, and may even be able to reduce the duration of a planned orthodontic treatment!

How Often Should You Get Dental X-Rays?

The answer to this question lies in the hands of your dentist and orthodontist. Every medical professional understands the significant of radiation exposure and does their best to rely on x-rays as a tool only when necessary. Despite being generally considered safe, your orthodontist is always primarily focused on your long-term health. Reducing your exposure to even minor levels of radiation is a benefit to you!

That said, when an x-ray would potentially help you avoid a more immediate issue, they are recommended. The exact number of x-rays you get throughout your treatment will vary from person to person.

If you have concerns, make sure to voice them to your orthodontist or dentist and they’ll be happy to explain why they recommend an x-ray at your current or upcoming appointment. Like any medical treatment, they have experience that guides their decisions – they’re only recommending an x-ray because they believe the information it provides is worth the extremely small amount of radiation it exposes you to!

Are X-Rays for Braces Safe for Children?

Absolutely! If you’re bringing your child in for an early orthodontic exam, there’s no need to worry about the radiation from x-rays. Children are often more likely to get x-rays than their parents, due to higher chances of cavities and the shifting development of their jaw and teeth. In fact, many younger patients may get dental x-rays two to three times per year!

All medical research we have so far indicates that this is perfectly safe for them. As an added benefit, modern digital x-rays expose them (and you) to approximately 80 percent less radiation than the film x-rays that dentists relied on years ago.

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