Ever heard of thyroid collars?
You might have heard it (or worn it) at a dentist’s appointment. It’s one way of External Shielding from radiation–it’s a lead collar that a patient can wear around their neck to block the radiation that’s generated in making X-ray images.
Although individual doses are small, dental radiological procedures cannot be ignored because of the high collective volume. In a year, the estimated number of dental examinations is about 520 million.
Here are three things about radiation protection for dental staff and patients.
1. Children are more sensitive to radiation.
Not all dental offices require external shielding like lead aprons, as there is no need for it with well-designed and optimized equipment and procedures. However, these should always be available upon request for patients who want to be reassured of their safety.
On the other hand, experts recommend thyroid collars for children or for any dental patient whose thyroids may be exposed to the main beam or to a considerable amount of scatter radiation.
Because their bodies are still developing, children are more sensitive to radiation. That’s why assigned personnel should adjust equipment settings for smaller body size, otherwise, kids might receive a higher radiation dose than necessary.
2. Dental X-rays don’t harm a developing embryo or fetus.
No single diagnostic dental X-ray has a radiation dose high enough to cause harmful effects to a fetus. In fact, radiologists and medical physicists don’t see lead aprons as necessary. And this has been a practice for pregnant patients for a long time! But as mentioned, if it gives them psychological benefits, this should be available upon request.
3. In Australia, authorities should follow the Code of Practice and Safety Guide as the standard for radiation safety in dentistry.
If you’re involved in dental radiology, you should follow the Radiation Protection in Dentistry code of practice. Published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), this guide aims to “promote practices which protect human health and the environment from the possible harmful effects of radiation.”
This includes dose limits that authorities can track with personal monitoring devices.
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