top of page

Are Dental X-Rays Actually Necessary?

As your trusted dental care providers, we are deeply committed to your oral health and well-being. With a focus on minimally invasive approaches and personalized care, our mission is to help you maintain healthy teeth well into advanced ages. At Paul M. Sandvick, DDS & Associates, we believe in being "physicians of the mouth" prioritizing your lifelong dental health over unnecessary procedures.

In line with our philosophy, we want to shed light on the importance of regular dental x-rays in ensuring comprehensive oral care. Dental x-rays play a vital role in early detection, prevention, and treatment planning. Let's delve into why dental x-rays are a cornerstone of our practice and how they align with our commitment to conservative, patient-centric care.

This is a graphic that displays the heading "The Importance of Dental X-Rays" with a cartoon picture of a tooth in an x-ray film. The Paul M Sandvick, DDS & Associates logo is presented in the top left corner of the graphic.

Detecting Issues Early:

Dental x-rays allow us to see beyond what's visible during a routine examination. They help us detect dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, early-stage infections, bone loss, and, in some cases, tumors. By identifying these issues early on, we can intervene promptly with minimally invasive treatments, preventing further damage and preserving your natural teeth.

Customized Treatment Plans:

At Paul M. Sandvick, DDS & Associates, we believe in treating only what is medically necessary. Dental x-rays provide us with detailed insights into your oral health, enabling us to tailor treatment plans to your specific needs. Whether it's addressing decay, planning for tooth restoration, or managing underlying diseases that contribute to tooth loss, our approach is always personalized and conservative.

Monitoring Changes Over Time:

As part of our commitment to your long-term oral health, we use dental x-rays to monitor changes in your dental condition over time. By comparing current x-rays with previous ones, we can track the progression of any dental issues, evaluate the effectiveness of treatment, and make informed adjustments to your care plan as needed. This proactive approach helps us prevent serious dental problems down the line.

Empowering Patient Education:

We believe that informed patients make healthier choices. Dental x-rays serve as valuable educational tools, allowing us to communicate your dental health status and treatment options visually. Our team takes the time to discuss your x-ray images with you, empowering you to actively participate in your oral health journey and make informed decisions about your care.

An image of a dentist pointing to a dental x-ray in a consultation with a patient.

Can I Refuse Dental X-Rays at my Next Appointment?

It is your right to refuse diagnostic treatment; However, doing so could delay treatment and affect your provider's ability to provide the most accurate diagnosis.

Providers have a legal and ethical responsibility to provide a certain standard of care which is governed by state boards, such as the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. X-Rays are required to provide such a standard of care. In the rare case that a patient who refused diagnostic imaging suffers from a misdiagnosis, the provider could be liable for not fulfilling their duty.

A picture of the Panoramic Digital X-Ray machine at Paul M. Sandvick & Associates in Glendale, Wisconsin. The text on the graphic reads "Our state of the art technology has improved the x-ray-taking process across the board, allowing for the maximum safety of our amazing patients and staff.

Are Dental X-Rays safe?

Your safety and comfort are our top priorities, and we understand that some patients may have concerns about radiation exposure from dental x-rays. Rest assured, our practice utilizes modern digital x-ray technology, significantly reducing radiation doses compared to traditional methods. At Paul M. Sandvick, DDS & Associates, we stress the importance of continuing education for our team, which is why we invite the team at Strategic Dental Imaging to our office yearly, to teach us about the latest and greatest x-ray-taking procedures, information, and technologies.

We want to illustrate just how little radiation is absorbed by the human body when exposed to dental imaging.


Sieverts are the most common measure of absorption of radiation by the human body. 1 sievert (Sv) is equal is 1,000 millisieverts (mSv) and 1 millisievert is equal to 1,000 microsievert (μSv).


According to the American Dental Association (ADA), "radiation exposure associated with dental imaging represents a minor contribution to the total exposure from all sources." The ADA also states that the average radiation dose an American receives in a year is around 6.2 mSv, with about half this dose coming from natural sources like soil, radon, and minerals found in foods we eat. The other half of this radiation dose comes from man-made sources related to healthcare imaging. "Overall, dental imaging accounts for less than 15% of the estimated collective annual effective dose (6.2 mSv) received from medical imaging."

To prove that dental x-rays are not as intimidating as they may seem, let's explore some common sources of natural radiation and where they match up with the radiation dose emitted by dental x-rays.

This is a graphic illustrating how minimal the radiation level of dental x-rays are on the human body.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, your body absorbs ~0.1 μSv from eating a single banana.

According to the National Library of Medicine, your body absorbs ~0.77 μSv of radiation when a single bitewing x-ray is taken at your dental office.

According to the National Park Service, spending a day at the Grand Canyon can cause your body to absorb ~1.2 μSv of radiation. This is due to naturally occurring Uranium presence in the park. The EPA has found that these levels are harmless and are at safe, background levels.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, estimates that a full-mouth dental x-ray produces ~3.9 μSv of radiation.

The ADA states that the average American receives a radiation dose of around 6.2 microsieverts of radiation per year. We can calculate that the average background dose received per day is ~17 μSV.

According to the Scientific American, a 6-hour plane flight exposes the human body to ~18 μSv of radiation.

A picture of a dental patient and a dental professional taking a dental x-ray. The patient has on a lead apron, which is now not recommended by the American Dental Association.

Are Lead Aprons and Thyroid Collars Recommended by the ADA?

The American Dental Association formed an expert panel which made the decision not to recommend the use of lead aprons and thyroid collars during dental x-rays. The decision was supported by an expert panel of medical doctors as well as by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and The American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology.

Recent findings provide evidence that modern, digital x-ray technology has eliminated the need for lead apron and thyroid protection. Modern digital x-ray machines concentrate the x-ray beam on the exact area of study, reducing "scatter," which was what the aprons and thyroid collars were used to prevent. These aprons and thyroid collars can actually get in the way of the x-ray beam and cause the practitioner to be forced to retake the image, doubling the dose of radiation.

At Paul M. Sandvick, DDS & Associates, in accordance with the ADA, we do not recommend lead aprons or thyroid collars. However, we still have both on hand if you feel more comfortable wearing them during your x-rays!

A beautiful picture of the Paul M. Sandvick, DDS & Associates office building

As part of your initial visit to our office, our dedicated staff assesses your risk for tooth decay and helps you implement changes to reduce these risks effectively. We firmly believe that intercepting the causes of decay is key to preventing serious dental issues in the future.

We are immensely proud to have realized our vision of providing a dental office that reflects our dedication to comfort and care. Our newly improved space, opened in 2018, is furnished with the most up-to-date dental technology and is designed to offer you the highest standard of dental treatment in a welcoming environment.

In closing, we believe strongly in education as well as in our work. We would not recommend something that we do not believe in. Dental x-rays can truly be the difference maker in obtaining the best possible preventative care. Please feel free to contact our office to learn more about why x-rays are an essential component of maintaining upstanding oral health or simply ask your provider at your visit!


bottom of page