Digital X-ray with the Panorex Machine
Radiation in Everyday Life
Dr. Wall and Associates of Family Dentistry have recently added The ProMax X-ray Machine to our office, which brings new possibilities for treatment planning and maximizes the safety of our imaging procedures. This unit complies with the best practices in dentistry by following the American Dental Association’s ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) radiation principle to minimize the effective radiation dose to our patients. The unique features of this unit allow us to choose what area of the teeth and facial anatomy we need to capture, which significantly reduces any unnecessary exposure. Our staff can also adjust the unit’s settings, allowing us to capture only the details we need. We will be using this unit with state-of-the-art software applications for the best possible care using the latest technology.
What is Radiation?
Radiation is a form of energy in waves. It exists on a spectrum, with low-frequency radiation (from radio waves and microwaves) on the low end and high-frequency radiation (from gamma rays and x-rays) on the high end. All radiation affects the cells in our bodies to some extent, but the lower the frequency of the waves and the lower the exposure, the less dangerous it is.
Types of Radiation?
The term “radiation” is very broad, and includes such things as light and radio waves. In our context it refers to “ionizing” radiation, which means that because such radiation passes through matter, it can cause it to become electrically charged or ionized. In living tissues, the electrical ions produced by radiation can affect normal biological processes.
How are we exposed to Radiation?
We encounter radiation each day from a variety of sources. The average American is exposed to about 6 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation annually, according to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC). Half of this typically comes from background radiation that occurs naturally in the environment, and half comes from medical tests, such as X-rays, mammograms, and CT scans.
According to Kelly Classic, MS, spokesperson for the Health Physics Society, sources of environmental radiation include:
- Radioactive compounds in soil and building materials like concrete, brick, and stone
- Radiation from outer space that you encounter when you fly on airplanes or visit high-altitude places
- The mineral potassium in your own body (a small fraction of potassium, which our bodies need to function, is radioactive)
- Radon gas in the home, which accounts for about 2 mSv of exposure each year, and is the largest contributor of background radiation
Finally, there’s the kind of radiation released during nuclear reactions, such as what’s disseminating from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Here’s a look at various sources of radiation exposure, according to data from the Health Physics Society and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
By way of comparison, a single dose of radiation below 0.01 mSv is considered negligible by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements.