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X-ray safety: Are your processes what they should be for patients and staff?

Recently, I attended the annual conference of the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP)—my mothership for all things infection prevention and patient safety. The following is a recap of the main points from an amazing presentation by Juan F. Yepes, DDS, on dental x-ray safety. I had so many takeaways from it that I wanted to share them.

In modern dentistry, radiographic examinations play a vital role in diagnosing and monitoring oral diseases. Dental radiographic examinations—including panoramic, cephalometric, and the more advanced 3D imaging cone beam computed tomography (CBCT)—are routinely required, and to date, there have been approximately 325 million procedures completed in the United States alone.1

Importance of dental radiation safety

Certified practitioners are responsible for always maintaining an absolute minimum of patient and employee exposure to radiation by taking all precautions necessary to safeguard the health and safety of those involved. Operators of dental x-ray equipment must be competent and understand the fundamental laws of radiation safety, as well as the health risks associated with radiation exposure. Unfortunately, dentistry is a business, and I have been asked to update radiographs based on increasing the day’s production. I find this to be unethical because updating radiographs should always be based on the patient’s needs and not capitalism.

Effective dosage and monitoring

Dental imaging procedures have a wide range of effective doses that compare radiological risk against their diagnostic value. Intraoral radiographs are the lowest at around 1.5 µSv, whereas panoramic radiography is between 2.7 µSv and 24 µSv. For CBCT, the effective doses are more significant and can vary even more, from 11 µSv to 1,073 µSv.

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