Dental X-Rays Before Pregnancy

I'm trying to conceive and recently had a dental check-up. My dentist took 20 x-rays. I wore two lead shields with thyroid collars for added protection. Were they really necessary, and how much radiation did I get? Could this be harmful if I were to get pregnant in the next month or so?


A full mouth series of dental radiographs (x-rays) is generally taken about every five to seven years. A full mouth series involves taking between 18 to 21 films. Dentists need to have the information this full mouth series offers to determine if any conditions, such as cysts, tumors or abscesses, exist in the bone surrounding the teeth. Full mouth radiographs also help determine the health of the teeth and the nerve tissue within the teeth. If nothing else, the complete set of radiographs will serve as comparison for the future if any problems should arise.

The amount of radiation received from a set of 21 dental radiographs is approximately three millirems. What the heck is a millirem? Three millirems are equivalent to about four days of exposure to radiation received naturally from the sun. A Nationwide Evaluation of X-ray Trends Tabulations study done in 1983 states that the probability of congenital anomalies and childhood malignancies from this amount of radiation is practically nonexistent. The double shield may have reduced your exposure even more.

Most dentists do not recommend routine radiographs during pregnancy, if possible. Of course, minimal radiographs may need to be taken during pregnancy to treat dental emergencies. By having your dental exam completed before becoming pregnant, you have reduced your risk that a dental emergency will occur during pregnancy. As for getting pregnant, there should be very little worry on your part regarding your radiographs. In fact, it is ideal to ensure that you have good dental health prior to getting pregnant so that minimal dental treatment will be necessary during your pregnancy. Your family planning includes the right order of priorities. I hope this helps to ease your mind. Good luck in your endeavors!

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