Safety Guidelines on X-Rays / Radiographs


These days, with the advancement and emergence of new technologies, patients are exposed to significantly less radiation when x-rays are taken.


With the use of digital x-rays, patients’ exposure to radiation can be as little as 10 percent of the radiation dose from a traditional film-based x-ray / radiograph (depending on the type of film used). Studies have also shown that dental x-rays have one of the lowest radiation dose compared to other types of x-rays. Since radiation exposure in dental x-rays is low, the concern is that dentists may consider it as a free pass for numerous retakes or take on a lax attitude towards radiation safety for patients.

Dental practitioners should weigh the benefits of taking x-rays against the risk of exposing a patient to radiation, no matter how minimal it is. They should only order for x-rays if they can justify that the additional diagnostic information obtained from the x-rays will make a difference in patient care. A dentist who knows the patient’s health history and his/her susceptibility to oral diseases would be in the best position to make a judgment that is in the interest of the patient to ensure the exposure to x-ray radiation is justified in relation to its benefits.

Although x-rays help to diagnose cavities and diseases that are not visible during a dental examination, any level of radiation poses a potential risk to patients. Therefore, you would want to minimise your exposure as much as possible. Some good x-ray practices which help reduce patients’ exposure:

  • To provide patients with a resource of trusted practitioners for quality care and treatment. 
  • Use of the ALARA (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) Principle; 
  • Use of digital x-ray system or a faster speed x-ray film (E or F-speed films); 
  • Use of rectangular collimators, whenever feasible;
    Note: A rectangular collimator reduces the radiation dose by up to fivefold compared to a circular collimator. (See illustration)
  • Use of protective aprons and thyroid collars, when appropriate; 
  • Limiting the number of images obtained to the minimum that is requred to obtain the necessary diagnostic information. 

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