Answer to Question #1329 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Exposures not directly to embryo/fetus

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


I am very concerned about dental x rays I had before I knew I was pregnant and after. I am now 31 weeks and experiencing a normal pregnancy. I am, however, very concerned about the amount of radiation my baby was exposed to from the dental x rays. My major concern is whether my baby is at increased risk for leukemias and other cancers due to these x-ray exposures. I am also concerned about other potential birth defects. I would very much appreciate your opinion regarding what risks are associated with these types of x-ray exposure to my baby. Do I need to be aware of an increased cancer risk for my baby in the years to come? I hope to hear from you soon. I'm a very concerned mother!


X rays that increase the risk of leukemia or other cancers have to expose the embryo and the exposure has to be much higher than the exposure you receive from a routine dental examination.

In your case, dental x rays result in insignificant exposure to the embryo. The "scatter" that might reach the embryo would be extremely small and would not represent an increased risk for birth defects or miscarriage to your embryo. If you are healthy and young and have no reproductive problems or family history of reproductive problems your risk for birth defects is 3% and for miscarriage, 15%.

Your child's risk for leukemia or any other cancer would also be the same as the general population unless there is leukemia in the immediate family. Neither you nor I can change these risks. Good luck with your pregnancy.

Robert Brent, MD, PhD

Answer posted on 30 October 2001. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.