DIANNE GLASSCOE WATTERSON, RDH, BS, MBA,
is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant
to dental practices across the United States.
Dianne’s new book, “The Consummate Dental
Hygienist: Solutions for Challenging Workplace
Issues,” is now available on her website. To
contact her for speaking or consulting, call
(301) 874-5240 or email dglasscoe@northstate.
net. Visit her website at www.professionalden-talmgmt.com.
BY DIANNE GLASSCOE WATTERSON, RDH, BS, MBA
diation adds to that accumulated amount. Every precaution
should be taken to ensure that radiation exposure is “as low
as reasonably achievable,” known as the ALARA principle.
Most dental professionals feel that a leaded apron minimizes exposure to the abdomen and should be used when
any dental radiograph is taken. Also, a leaded thyroid collar
can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should also be
used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar
is recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant
women, and children.
I consulted a number of resources to get reliable
continued on pg. 102
Please set us straight. Our office recently
purchased a new digital panoramic machine. It can isolate any given area and take
We had our in-office introductory training with the company training rep, and he said
that using the lead shield is not necessary. He told
us that the radiation output is so minute that shielding is
not needed. The office as a whole is not comfortable taking
digital radiographs without a lead apron. The doctor, however, has instructed us not to use an apron on the patients
and says it is not “damaging radiation.” I cringed when I saw
a 16 year old get a panorex without the apron. For certain, I
would put a lead apron on my family members, so why not
all our patients?
We do take the “sensor” digital x-rays with an apron.
Does each digital company have their own criteria?
What is the stance on lead aprons with ADA? Who are we
to listen to? Are there any guidelines that are clear and supported by reliable evidence? I am so tired of the grey areas of
regulation and varied interpretation in dentistry.
One solution we have explored is having a notice posted
in our X-ray area that states something like, “Lead apron is
no longer necessary. However, if you request added protection, we will gladly provide you with one.” The thing is that
we are not convinced that the lead apron is not needed.
Why does he care if we want to use a lead apron? And if
it’s so safe, why do we have to leave the room to make the
Many thanks and I have enjoyed 20 years of reading your
Digital technology has certainly improved radiographic image quality over the past few years, and I’m glad to hear that
your boss has invested in a digital panoramic unit. Some of
the images I have seen in client offices are nothing short of
amazing. The variety of image tools increases the clinician’s
ability to visualize areas of concern as never before.
While digital radiography is known to use lower amounts
of radiation than film-based models, radiation is still being
generated. We also know that radiation is accumulative
over time and with exposures. The radiation dose you received 10 years ago when you had that CT scan remains with
you the rest of your life. Every subsequent exposure to ra-
LEAD SHIELD DILEMMA
ITEM DOSE OF RADIATION IN MILLISIEVERTS
Banana 0.00001 mSv
Dental X-ray 0.005 mSv
Living within 50 miles of a nuclear
0.01 (per year) mSv
A flight from New York to Los
Smoking 1 ½ packs of cigarettes 0.08 mSv
Living at sea level 0.25 (per year) mSv
Mammogram 0.3 mSv
Abdominal CT scan 14 mSv
Digital pan + 4 BWS 27 Sv
Digital FMX 60 Sv
Film FMX 75 - 180 Sv
Digital FMX + Digital pan 74 Sv
Film pan + Film FMX 94 – 199 Sv