Answer to Question #10449 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Equipment/Shielding — Lead Aprons

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

I am phobic about x rays because I feel like I've had too many and now need to visit the dentist and don't want to go because I've had so many dental x rays taken in the past and I know I'll need more this time. I have learned the lead vests in dental offices are not really necessary anymore and only provide peace of mind to the patient. However, does the same go for thyroid collars, or are those still necessary? I have had dental x rays taken without a thyroid collar in the past and if they only offer peace of mind like the larger vest, great. But if they are needed and I didn't have one I'm freaking out!

In National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements Report No. 145, Radiation Protection in Dentistry, the following statements are made: 1. For lead aprons, “The use of lead aprons on patients shall not be required if all other recommendations in this report are rigorously followed. However, if under exceptional circumstances any of these recommendations are not implemented in a specific case, then the leaded aprons should be used. 2. For thyroid collars, “Thyroid shielding shall be provided for children, and should be provided for adults, when it will not interfere with the examination” (NCRP 2003).

It is interesting to note that I do not recall ever seeing a thyroid collar available at a dental facility. This may simply mean that they are not prevalent. In this case it would seem that offering the lead apron to the patient and pulling it up over the thyroid area would be equivalent to using a thyroid collar.

If your dentist does not have a thyroid collar for your use, you can ask for an apron and pull it up over your neck as long as the dentist says it will not interfere with your x rays.

Kennith “Duke” Lovins, CHP

National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Radiation protection in dentistry. Bethesda, MD: NCRP; NRCP Report No. 145; 2003.

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