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Are You Afraid of Dental X-Rays?

Do you or your kids get x-rays at the dentist or orthodontist?

what your dentist doesn't knowWe have a couple of great local guys we go to for dental and orthodontic work. For years now, we’ve asked the dentist not to do Fluoride treatments OR x-rays, and we only go once a year instead of shlepping all six of us in every six months. They’ve been nothing but cool about it. No problem. At the orthodontist we’ve ‘passed’ on the x-rays there a few times, but we’ve also had to let the kids get them now and then, because I don’t know how else he can get a good look at what’s happening up above the baby teeth. Of course they say that dental x-ray machines are “safer than ever”. (But they say those cancer machines in airports are safe, too. Did you also see this post: It’s Scary What Your Dentist Doesn’t Know.)

This CNN article that Kent found last week freaked me out: Brain tumors linked to dental x-rays.

Read an excerpt:

“A study published this week in the journal Cancer shows that people who have had dental X-rays are more likely to develop a type of brain tumor called meningioma than those who have not.

This does not prove that dental X-rays cause tumors. But it supports previous research about the connection. Dental X-rays have also been implicated in thyroid cancer. But there’s still significant doubt about the existence of any direct relationship between meningioma and dental X-rays, and dental professionals were quick to call for more research, saying the study was less than perfect.

“It’s a cautionary tale … we do know that radiation can cause tumors, and we have to be judicious with its use,” said Dr. Donald O’Rourke, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study.”

The really disconcerting part is that an x-ray on a child is much more potent than one on an adult.

We’re hoping that our youngest, who has benefited from our Real Food diet since before he was conceived, will not need orthodontic work like the other three have, but who knows if our diet is different enough or if we’ve been consistent enough with our fermented cod liver oil, which I know really can make a huge difference.

So let me know your thoughts.

Is the rare x-ray at the orthodontist unavoidable? What do you do? Do you even go to the dentist or orthodontist?



  1. Dear Kelly, there is homeopatic remedy that you can take after x-rays that flushes out radiation out of your body. Ask your homeopath.
    Miso soup helps also. But still I avoid it as much as I can.

  2. IF this chart is accurate, then dental x-rays are nothing to worry about:

    My family has always had dental x-rays taken at the suggested times. On the one hand there are suggestions of a link with cancer, and on the other hand there is tangible evidence that rotting teeth have a direct impact on health. Definitely a personal decision.

  3. This is something I have been wondering about for a while now. The last couple times I went to the dentist I refused x-rays since who knows? They were fine with it. Then I read a post from another blog recommending a thyroid guard when having x-rays. Never heard of it. I suspect my dentist hasn’t either.

    • I asked my dentist recently about the thyroid guard thing, and he said it’s state law in our state that you HAVE to have a thyroid guard on the shield when taking x-rays. Thought that was interesting.

      • Bonny, what state are you in? I Just had some done after over a year of refusing, (because as Kelly said, I feel once every couple of years is good if you are taking care of your teeth and health in general.) And i remember when the protection they used were just vests that looked like wide tank tops. Now my x-ray shield had a collar. I think i asked them about thyroid guards a while back and got that same answer too. I’m in California.

      • I asked our dentist for a thyroid guard and they didn’t have one! The tech just had me pull up the vest thing over my neck… not that it matters, I already had thyroid cancer and a thyroidectomy so there is no organ there to irradiate. But I couldn’t believe they didn’t even have one!

  4. I was under the impression that the cancer link was with older X-ray machines that were far more potent than today’s…….

    • Hopefully that’s true, but we don’t really know, and won’t know for years and years, and only then if someone does a study on it. And still, then we’re trusting the people who DID the study, that it’s done well and is accurate.

      Just because they tell us that these machines are safer, that doesn’t reassure me too much, unfortunately…

      But yet, it seems that everything in the world has some risk associated with it — Joel Salatin says, “Life is dangerous, it could kill you!” So as Naomi said above, maybe we just need to make the best choice at the time for our families.

      • People are dropping dead all over the place from these xrays, haven’t you seen the streets littered with bodies? And further more have people not noticed that everyone working in a dental office is glowing from the exposure from being in an area where xrays are taken everyday? Seriously, you get more radiation exposure from sunlight in a two day period than you get from a dental office visit when xrays are taken. By the way, the people.conducting these studies are working their butts off researching and writing articles based on their findings to educate and inform people, not say whatever they want and fool people.

        • But people ARE dropping dead all around us, how many people do you know with cancer now or who have died from cancer? I’m not saying I believe these x-rays are definitely the cause or even a significant part of it, but how do we know they’re not?

          And I don’t *want* the effects of two days in the sun for me or my kids, unless we’re getting it naturally which comes with a powerful beneficial dose of vitamin D.

          Lastly, I’m sure people conducting studies do work hard at what they do, but I also don’t completely trust them because the money behind them often can skew things.

          Just my thoughts, I appreciate you sharing yours. :)


  5. my biologic dentist put a thyroid guard on me last summer when i had x-rays for infected wisdom tooth. i commented “no other dentist has ever protected my thyroid before an x-ray” her response was, well they should be.

  6. I try to avoid them if I can, but if I feel it’s necessary I ALWAYS get the thyroid guard. My dental hygenist sometimes makes a comment about how no one ever asks for it, and how the machine doesn’t put off that much radiation, and the thyroid guard isn’t really necessary. If that’s true, lady, why do you always make sure you go behind the concrete wall before you push the button? I have a thyroid problem, and I don’t want to take any chances on it getting worse. I remember as a child when they’d take x-rays at the dentist nearly every visit with no thyroid guard… wonder how that treated my thyroid?

  7. I asked for a thyroid guard the last time I went, but have never done that (or been offered one) in the past. I’ve been getting x-rayed since I was a child since my dad is a traditional MD. I think we’ll avoid x-rays with our children (first child is 2 now). Looking back at how much I’ve been exposed can scare me, but then I just have to surrender the worry to the Lord. There is no benefit in worrying about it now. I will be more cautious going forward, for sure!

  8. the last time I went for a cleaning they refused me because I refused the xrays. I fired my dentist office and left. I am quite sad about it because I have had horrible experiences with dentists and I liked my actual dentist (there were several in the practice and I near had a panic attack when they accidently schedualed me with someone else) I’m so due and need to find someone else, but I’m playing ostrich and I know it, but I have yet been able to get out of my own way and just do it.

    • Try asking at your local WAPF chapter meeting and see who they go to?? Also, you might say where you’re from just in case someone knows of a good one near you…


    • Our dentist almost refused to clean my teeth last time too. I hadn’t had x-rays in ….3 years (due to pregnancy the last time I was in). The hygienist said she couldn’t clean my teeth because it was a liability for them IF something was actually wrong.

      I finally got snippy and told her that she could take them. If she paid for them! Since we don’t have dental insurance, nothing is ever covered when we’re there. :-)

      They told me that they’d HAVE to take them next time. Well….we’ll see about that. I go in a few weeks from now so I’ll either come out with clean teeth, or needing a new dentist!

  9. I had a health scare in 2007 requiring me to have lots of tests, x-rays, MRIs, a procedure and a surgery. After that I started researching and living a healthier lifestyle and stopped letting the dentist (and anyone else) x-ray me. They put the pressure on me every so often and I have only let them x-ray me twice in the past 5 years. I do go every 6 months for scaling and cleaning but avoid the x-rays as often as I can.

  10. Honestly, my daughter has had so many X-rays in her 11 months, dental ones aren’t going to phase me too much though I imagine I’ll try to limit them somewhat. I’ll probably end up with cancer in my arms though because I’m always holding her down or comforting her. Thinking I need to start asking for a thyroid guard for myself and her though (although many times it would be in the way for her).

  11. I try to pass on the X-rays, but sometimes that can’t be avoided. Sure they put the lead apron on you, but they are supposed to put a smaller one to protect your thyroid. I always have ask the dental assistant for that one (if they can even find it). They always say the level of radiation is very small so why do they run out of the room like there’s going to be an explosion? That doesn’t build a lot of confidence.

  12. I limit them for myself. It really bothers me when I do get them and they say “oops, that one didn’t come out good. we’ll just take another.”. My kids are young and haven’t been to the dentist yet, but they will not get them.

  13. we need to make sure if we choose not to get them that we are eating a proper diet , Flossing, and brushing. 😉

  14. The material in fillings and root canals can be more harmful to your health.

  15. Rarely get xrays. We are careful how often and don’t justr get them to get them.

  16. Our dentist no longer uses the old style x-rays where they pull that thing over to your head and cover you with an apron. It’s just a very small wand that they place in front of your teeth and take digital x-rays with it. I’ve had it done once. They said it was a lot less radiation than the old type.

    I feel slightly more comfortable with it but still wouldn’t have x-rays done unless it was truly needed.

  17. In all my 30-some years of dental care, I don’t think a dentist has ever found something on an xray that was not obvious from looking in my mouth. I have had it the other way, though. Once there was a large cavity that did not show up on an xray, but based on the surface appearance the dentist said he’d fill it “just in case” and then was really glad he caught it because it was really deep and could have turned into a root canal situation. I’ve never really thought much about this before, but am wondering now if they’re even especially necessary.

  18. This was a very recent decision for me! My 6 year old ‘needed’ her first x-rays (I already passed on them once for her). I did some research and our dentist uses digital x-ray machines which, apparently, cuts the radiation by 80%. They also calibarate the machine for children (which they showed me each time). I will not be getting them every year–far from it. But it is good to know that all is well with her teeth and to give a ‘baseline’ for the future. Also purchased ‘seasnax’ from amazon. GREAT seaweed snack–natural and delicious! Seaweed is a natural chelator of radiation. Thankfully, the kids really like it!

  19. I’m never quite sure what to do about dental x-rays. I’m becoming increasingly leery about all of those things we’re told “need” to be done. I read this (sorry-can’t figure out how to make it “clickable”) right after my son had his wisdom teeth out. If anyone recommends the procedure for his younger siblings, we will definitely do more research. I’m thankful that my son didn’t have antibiotics at least. Also, my youngest, the most WAP-ed of all my kids, was told by the dentist that she probably has room for her wisdom teeth . That would be wonderful!!

  20. I just went for a cleaning today and refused x-rays. I just had to sign a paper releasing them from liability. She did say that the digital x-rays were safer and didn’t “scatter” radiation. I will probably get them next time since it will have been two years since the last ones.

  21. Personally, I not only worry about dental x-rays, but also about mammograms. Should we be blasting our body with x-rays as part of a regular “preventive” regimen? An x-ray is an important diagnostic tool, but it shouldn’t be bandied about like it’s not in the least bit dangerous. In my opinion, there ought to be a darn-good reason before you subject your body to it. Here’s an interesting link:

    I just started with a new “holistic” dentist who I’m quite pleased with so far. She needed a starting set of x-rays but said those would be good for 5 to 10 years. They were the digital x-rays and use less radiation. In addition, she used the thyroid guard — something I’d never heard of before. Not only that, my previous dentist wanted to do the drastic “scaling/planing” procedure under the gum line where there were “deep pockets” developing. My new dentist tells me the deep pockets (which are worse than ever) are only around the molars with metal fillings. She thinks it’s an inflammatory reaction to the metal fillings since the rest of my gums are very healthy. We’re in the process now of replacing all the metal fillings, but it will take awhile because of the cost (out of network!)

    My advice is to find a holistic practitioner — they have a completely different perspective than traditional dentists. Traditional dentists all use the same playbook — the one put out by the ADA (American Dental Association). They’re NOT ALLOWED to tell you that amalgam (metal) fillings contain toxic mercury, which can lead to all kinds of health problems. If you have deep pockets in your gums, they scrape and plane. They don’t think about alternatives, or even causes — they follow the playbook. I used to trust doctors and dentists. Then I decided to educate myself.

    Lets not forget, we are patients, not victims. We are intelligent adults, capable of making informed decisions, and should carefully evaluate ANY medical or dental procedure that the doctor or dentist suggests. If we don’t like something or are concerned about health or safety, we should never be afraid to refuse a treatment or seek another opinion… or change dentists.

    Great post! … and some interesting comments, too.

  22. I have had xrays in the past and more recently the digital ones. My dentist office is mainline but recently they’ve stopped acting like I’m nuts for refusing fluoride for my dd. She had a tiny cavity in a baby tooth that they did not fill and none since (despite her usually overly speedy brushing.)

    We drink raw milk and use fluoride free toothpaste. DD even shared with the hygenists about the source of fluoride in the water! Of course, the hygenist did not know that.

    I don’t think we’d be “fired” for refusing the xrays. We’ve really had minimal problems since starting to go there 10 years ago. Mostly, we just go every 6 months for cleaning.If I did have more xrays, I’d definately ask for the thyroid guard.

    Speaking of the “Oh, that one wasn’t very good….”, that’s why I stopped going for mamograms. Every year when I went they took more views that I thought necessary, then they always had me come back to “look” at something again and took humpteen more views. I’ve had enough pictures taken of my breasts for a lifetime and I’m not even 50. I’ve never had a real problem only funny looking spots that I’ve probably had since birth that everyone wants to CYA about. Maybe I’ll consider a thermogram….

  23. Feeling a little fishy about my dentist. I hadn’t been for about 10 years (after I left home) and then started having babies and decided I’d better start going again. I specifically chose the new dentist in town b/c they offer Invisalign. Haven’t done it yet b/c of the cost, but my folks have offered to foot the bill for me. Thanks also to them I’ve got one of those handy-dandy Phillilps Sonicare toothbrushes – love it!

    To be honest, for me it’s more about vanity, but needless to say I was more than thrilled to hear my dentist tell me that that I NEED Invisalign b/c my teeth are wearing unevenly thus causing all the problems I’m having. I’ve had fillings on each quadrant (upper and lower) and one was so deep they ended up having to cap 2 teeth. Don’t know if the new enamel-colored stuff is any safer than the metal-colored stuff, but that’s what they’ve used on me.

    I really think this dentist tends to push services on us to pay for their massage chairs and satellite t.v. in the exam rooms. I’ve declined another filling for now just b/c it isn’t giving me any pain, but I do worry a little bit since they gave me a scare on one of my other fillings – if you let it go without treatment, it could lead to more extensive/expensive treatment (e.g. root canal).

    My last cleaning visit really turned me off b/c they did this new ‘sandblasting’ technique on my gums that I wasn’t really impressed with. Will prob. decline the next time. I didn’t like the feeling of all these spa-esqu services. Just clean my teeth and let me outta here! I am moving my 2 oldest (4 & 5) to them just b/c it was a hassle to take off of work and drive 30 min. south to the pedidontist where they lay in their exam chairs watching Sponge Bob (don’t get me started) and they gave away McDonald’s and Applebee’s coupons and they each got a toy. Seriously! I hate that they spend so much money making the place look like a spa!!!

    I really need to go back to my old-fashioned childhood dentist who is so old he’s probably got one foot in the ground!

    I’m really nowhere near where the rest of you are on this in terms of incorporating the WAP diet for my family, let alone holistic care. I could prob. find a practitioner in the city an hour from where I live, but I’m on the fence about the extra time away from work plus the expense of getting there and then paying for it out of our pocket b/c it isn’t covered. And let’s be honest, a trip to the city isn’t complete without a meal out.

    Long way to go here . . .

    • I think you’re further along than you give yourself credit for. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people today still wouldn’t bat an eye at a fast food coupon from the dentist…

      Then there are those of us who *cringe* over it!

      The dentist is probably thinking that it’s better than a sugar candy, but they must not know that it’s just as bad. :(


  24. what about cell phones? I know that’s a whole other topic of discussion, but isn’t that radiation too? That’s a daily dose of radiation if you use the phone all the time (like I do to talk to my sister). I keep putting off buying a head set because I’ve bought 3 in the past and they always sound bad, but wonder if I’m giving myself a tumor with each phone call! I try to use my land line as much as possible.

    I started going to a holistic dentist to replace all my mercury fillings that are old (yes, very expensive because they are out of network – my insurance pays half, but each tooth is $300 minimum), and they did x-rays the first time I had my teeth cleaned – no thyroid guard. I will have to ask him his opinion the next time I go. I never thought anything about it at the time.

    My kids go to a regular dentist and I did ask them not to do the flouride treatment, which I found out after their first visit is automatic – they don’t even tell you they’re doing it, I just noticed it on the bill. They looked at me like I was a freak but didn’t do it. I remind them each time and they said “why? insurance covers it”. I just said they get enough flouride through the water. I wish I could switch us all to the holistic dentist, but it is too expensive for 5 kids and I have just been going for the filling situation.

  25. I recently switched dentists after about 25 years with one. I drive about 250 miles to Minneapolis from the Fargo/Moorhed area. She doesn’t do everything the way I’d like — they ask about fluoride and they do a lot of drilling, like the others do, but they do have a referral to a specialist that can test the materials used in your filling, adhesive, etc., for incompatibility with your meridians. BUT this is where I found out about the Thyroid Collar. My son who is 15 is still signed up for the regular dentist here in town and, now that I asked about the Thyroid Collar, they tell me they DO have one. Where was it all these years? They’ll use it on him, now, or I’ll take him somewhere else. If he ever does get a cavity, I’m taking him elsewhere, as well. (He’s had a tiny cavity in a baby tooth before it fell out — so far, so good.)

    Thanks, as always, Kelly! You have some great topics!

  26. If there is a dental problem that requires an x-ray, then I don’t fight it. …as long as they use a lead apron.

  27. (Regarding the question of do we get dental x-rays…) The least amount possible an that’s one about every 5 yrs- my husband fixes the equipment

  28. I would have never discovered that my 5 year old had 7 cavities and needed two baby root canals without dental x rays because her teeth are so crowded. I have two second opinions and they all concurred this was necessary dental work for a child of this age. We eat healthy and it’s something genetic bc my husband had a ton of cavities. I recommend everyone FLOSS their kids teeth and use a rinse, preferably one without artificial dyes.


    My oldest is 11 and has never had an x ray at the dentist or orthodontist. None of my kids have. The hygienists look at me like I’m a nut job, but I really could care less what they think. Typically they know the type because then they ask if I’m going to skip the fluoride too. The way I see it is if the dentist can’t see the cavity or feel it with his instruments, then I am not going to worry about it. They are BABY TEETH that are going to FALL OUT anyway, why x-ray them? I would never get a metal filling put in a cavity if they had one anyway. We brush and floss and drink raw milk and all of the kids have good teeth.

    When I was a kid, and had very small cavities in my baby molars, my mom told the dentist to leave them alone because the molars were going to fall out anyway. They never bothered me. I had only one small cavity in my permanent teeth (and now have to find a holistic dentist at some point and get that mercury filling removed some day).

    As for teeth coming in, they will come in eventually, why x-ray them every 6 months? If they come in crooked, take care of it when they are older and all the baby teeth have fallen out and new teeth have come in. Doctors used to think they had to x ray pregnant women to make sure they baby was “not too big” and “turned the right way” and that didn’t turn out well either.

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