There is plenty to think about when you are pregnant, especially as a first-time mom. After all, you are suddenly responsible not just for yourself, but for another little being. Experts agree that you can ease your mind about one subject -- the science is clear -- it is safe to get dental x-rays while pregnant.
The FDA, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American College of Radiology, all agree on the safety of dental x-rays during pregnancy. In 2017, they released a joint publication saying x-rays, “when properly done, do not involve any risk to the unborn child.”
But if you are like many new mothers, you want all the information about getting dental x-rays while pregnant and breastfeeding, before making a decision.
Radiation from Dental X-Rays
To help you make a fully informed decision about getting dental x-rays while pregnant, let’s stop for a quick minute to understand x-rays.
An x-ray is a type of electromagnetic radiation that passes through most objects, including your body. When x-rays travel through any part of your body to an x-ray detector on the other side, an image appears showing the “shadows” formed by objects inside. Bones and teeth are dense, so they produce a high contrast and show up white on the x-ray film or digital image. Any holes, like breaks in your bone or cavities in your teeth, show up in shades of grey.
The concern over x-rays comes from the radiation. Very high levels of radiation carry risks including miscarriage, birth defects, and some cancers. But these high levels only happen during certain medical treatments, like radiation treatment for cancer. The dose of radiation during a dental x-ray is comparatively very low.
What Science Says About Dental X-Rays While Pregnant
Scientists have a large amount of information about radiation during pregnancy because they studied women and children affected by the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Their conclusion: you need a very high dose of x-ray radiation during pregnancy to cause any harm to your baby, and dental x-rays come nowhere near this dose. As an easy comparison: two dental x-ray films expose you to just .02mSv of radiation, which is the same amount of radiation you get from a seven- hour plane ride. For radiation to cause any harm to your baby, you need at least 2,500 times that amount.
In addition to this, the small dose of radiation you get from a dental x-ray while pregnant is very concentrated and pointed at your mouth. Your baby is not directly exposed to the x-ray beam at all.
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The Safety of Dental X-Rays When Breastfeeding
Even after delivery, many new moms worry about exposing their babies to harmful chemicals passed through their milk during breastfeeding. But just like getting a dental x-ray while pregnant is safe, x-rays are safe for breastfeeding mothers and babies alike.
Pediatrician Natasha Burgert, writing for Baby Center, assures mothers about the safety of dental x-rays, and even chest x-rays, during breastfeeding. According to Dr. Burgert, the radiation in an X-ray does not remain in breast milk beyond the time of the scan and so it won't expose your baby to radiation.
Talking to Your Dentist About Dental X-Rays While Pregnant
You should always let your dentist know if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suspect you might be pregnant. Doctors recommend wearing a lead apron provided by your dentist during an x-ray to block any scattered radiation from your reproductive organs. This is true whether or not you are pregnant, or for that matter, whether you are a man or a woman. The International Atomic Energy Agency says lead aprons reduce exposure to x-ray radiation by over 90%.
The American Dental Association also recommends that during dental x-rays, pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and children use a leaded thyroid collar to further protect themselves.
Dental care during pregnancy is a crucial part of your overall preventive care routine. Talk to your dentist about getting x-rays while pregnant as a part of your regular preventive care visit.
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