Dr. Kathleen Mullaney • DDS • FAGD

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Can Dental X-Rays Cause Cancer?

Can Dental X-Rays Cause Cancer?

When it comes to dental care, patients often question the safety of dental X-rays. Concerns about radiation exposure and cancer risks are common.

Our Alexandria dentist, Dr. Mullaney, answers your questions about whether dental X-rays can cause cancer here.

What Are Dental X-Rays?

Dental X-rays are essential tools in modern dentistry, allowing dentists to peer beyond the surface of your smile. Using low levels of radiation, these imaging tests capture detailed pictures of your teeth, gums, and jawbone, revealing hidden issues that may not be apparent during a routine exam.

How Often Should You Get Dental X-Rays?

It depends on your age, oral health, and other risk factors. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends full mouth X-rays (FMX) for adults every three to five years. However, Dr. Mullaney may suggest more frequent X-rays if you have specific dental concerns or require dental procedures.

Bite wing X-rays are typically taken once a year, even for adults who have good oral health. This is because bitewing X-rays can detect cavities and other problems that may not be visible on a full mouth X-ray.

Children may need X-rays more often due to their developing teeth and jaws. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children receive their first dental X-rays between the ages of 3 and 6.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

The short answer is yes. While it’s true that X-rays emit radiation, the amount used in dental procedures is extremely low and considered safe for most individuals. In fact, the radiation exposure from a dental X-ray is significantly less than what we receive from natural sources like the sun or certain foods.

Can Dental X-Rays Cause Cancer?

Numerous studies and reputable organizations have confirmed that the risk of developing cancer from dental X-rays is extremely low.

According to the US Department of Energy, exposure to 10,000 millirem (mrem) of radiation would only increase the chances of cancer by 1%. A dental X-ray exposes a person to approximately 2-3 mrem of radiation.

Furthermore, a research report that was widely misinterpreted in 2012 suggested a link between dental X-rays and brain tumors. However, the actual findings of the research demonstrated no increased risk of brain tumors associated with dental X-rays. The NHS also debunked this link.

Benefits of Dental X-Rays

  • Early detection and prevention: X-rays can detect hidden dental problems before they become major issues. They can reveal cavities between teeth, infections in the bones, tumors or cysts, impacted teeth, and changes in the jawbone. Detecting these issues early allows for prompt treatment and prevents further complications.
  • Planning procedures: X-rays provide dentists with a clear picture of your teeth and jawbones to plan more precisely. This is particularly important for complex procedures like tooth extractions, root canals, and orthodontic treatments.
  • Monitoring growth and development: For children and adolescents, X-rays are invaluable in tracking the development of their teeth and jaws. They allow dentists to assess tooth growth, identify potential issues early on, and ensure proper eruption.
  • Improving accuracy: Digital X-rays offer superior image quality, allowing dentists to see small details more clearly. This improves the accuracy of diagnoses and treatment decisions.


Contact Dr. Kathleen Mullaney, DDS Today!

At Dr. Kathleen Mullaney, DDS, your oral health and safety are our top priorities. Our experienced dental team uses the latest technology, including digital X-rays, to provide comprehensive and safe dental care. We believe that informed patients are empowered patients, so we encourage you to ask any questions about dental X-rays.

Call 240-532-3335 or contact us today to learn more.
Author Bio: Dr. Kathleen Mullaney offers various general and cosmetic dentistry services in Alexandria, VA. She earned her doctorate in dental surgery from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) and proudly served as a United States Navy dentist before opening her practice. With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Mullaney is delighted to be one of Old Town’s most respected and sought-after dentists! Call 240-532-3335 to schedule an appointment.

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* Includes necessary X-rays, Velscope Oral Cancer Screening and periodontal examination
(New Patients Only, excludes cleaning. Not billable to insurance)

Trusted in the Community

Had my first visit to Dr. Mullaney’s office this month since the pandemic and the experience was gold standard. The safety processes and clean office environment were impeccable. Dr. Mullaney and staff were, as usual, amazing. Every step was explained, the protective garments worn by staff were the best I have experienced. It was a safe and positive visit and I recommend making an appointment!!

I am a new patient. After my first dentist appointment with Dr. Mullaney, I left feeling very informed and in control of ultimately making decisions about the care and treatment I receive. The staff is incredibly kind and knowledgeable. I love that they participate in helping veterans through The Freedom Day USA program. They are committed to providing a very clean and friendly atmosphere. In addition this practice goes out of its way to bring comfort and the latest in dentistry to all their patients.

I never thought that a person could enjoy going to the dentist until I started seeing Dr. Mullaney. Her attractive and serene office and Dr. Mullaney and her competent and friendly staff make every visit a pleasure. They have a gift for making each experience smooth and efficient, with meticulous attention to the patient’s needs and comfort. On a scale of 1 to 10 this practice is a 15!

Dr. Mullaney and her staff are absolutely wonderful. They are very professional, personable and greet you by name when you walk in the door. Dr. Mullaney is very talented and really has perfected her craft. Even with a last-minute treatment change, she is unwavering in performing the highest quality treatment available. I am extremely grateful to you all for making my visit pleasant and even fun!