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Safety of Dental X-rays While Breastfeeding

It is safe to receive dental x-rays while breastfeeding because the radiation does not linger into the breast milk afterwards. The guidelines for avoiding radiation only apply during pregnancy and not post-partum.


In other words, you are safe to get your full dental check up and all of your necessary treatment while you're nursing your child. We know you may still be apprehensive, which is why we'll provide evidence for its safety.


panoramic dental x-ray
panoramic dental x-ray

Are dental x-rays harmful while breastfeeding?

It is certainly safe for mothers with newborn babies to receive dental x-rays while they're breastfeeding. We have a NIH study and also guidelines by the ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) supporting that claim.


During pregnancy, the concern is in regards to over exposing the fetus to radiation. However, after giving birth it shifts towards whether dental x-rays can affect lactation.


Common concerns regarding lactation and radiation:

  • Will it affect the production of milk?

  • Will the residual radiation from x-rays linger in the breast milk?

Those are all valid concerns because you don't want to inadvertently expose your newborn child to unneeded doses of radiation. Fortunately for all new mothers, they can breathe a sigh of relief because there is no evidence of harm from radiation while nursing.


Safety according to a scientific study

According to a NIH study, it is safe to receive not only dental x-rays but also other types of radiation (chest x-rays, etc) while the mother is breastfeeding.

  • It's safe because the radiation from the x-rays are only present during the time that they are being taken.

  • Diagnostic x-rays have no known effect on the milk in the breast during imaging.

  • Radiation also has no detrimental effect on breastmilk production.


What that means for you is there will be no residual radiation or radioactivity that lingers on in your body and breastmilk. You also won't be nursing your newborn with radioactive milk.


Key points:

  • There is no "waiting time" before it is safe to nurse your child after receiving x-rays.

  • You can breastfeed them as soon as you get up from the dental chair.

  • By the time you get back home, it will be beyond safe to do so.


In summary, the entire study states that you as a nursing mother do not need to take any special precautions in regards to getting radiographic imaging. Just follow the normal radiation safety protocol as if you weren't nursing.


There is nothing special that you need to do for dental x-rays while you're breastfeeding. You can proceed as if it was business as usual.


Guidelines by the ACOG

The ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) published a guideline for diagnostic imaging during pregnancy and lactation.


For the sake of transparency, the guidelines don't specifically mention dental diagnostic x-rays but they do include all of the medical ones such as MRI, sonograms, CT scans, and etc. These all produce significantly more radiation than what you will receive at the dentist office.


The overall tone of the article states that diagnostic radiation should not be withheld from pregnant women if they need it. Breastfeeding should also not be interrupted since there is no risk to lactation from external sources of ionizing radiation. In other words, x-rays have no effect on breastfeeding.


"However, confusion about the safety of these modalities for pregnant and lactating women and their infants often results in unnecessary avoidance of useful diagnostic tests or the unnecessary interruption of breastfeeding."

Perhaps verbally telling you that dental x-rays are safe while breastfeeding may not give you a clear image so we're going to give you actual numbers.


Putting radiation quantity into perspective

A normal fetus will naturally receive approximately 1 mGy of background radiation during pregnancy. That is what they receive without any additional diagnostic imaging that the mother receives. It is basically what they're exposed to from just being on this planet.


According to this study, which was referenced in the guideline there have been no reported fetal risk of anomalies, growth restrictions, or abortion from radiation dosages below 50 mGy.


To put that into perspective, here are some sample radiation doses for reference.

Type of X-ray

Radiation Dose (mGy)

Dental CBCT

0.2

Dental panoramic x-ray

0.013

Dental intraoral x-rays

0.005

Abdominal radiography

0.1-3.0

Reasons dental x-rays are safe:

  • The total dosage of dental radiographs doesn't even amount to a whole number in terms of radiation. In fact, they're less than what a fetus would normally get exposed to from just being inside the womb.

  • The dosages are also significantly below the safety level of 50 mGy. The panoramic and intraoral x-rays only give off 0.013 and 0.005 mGy respectively.


Yes, we are talking about breastfeeding but the point we wanted to make is that the fetus is the most vulnerable stage and if it is safe for that stage, it is certainly safe after they're born. Just to reiterate, radiation in general has had no effect on lactation at all.


Fun fact about radiation

We bet you've never even taken 100 of them in a single dentist visit! Also as a fun fact, according to livescience you get about 2-5 mGy of radiation from taking a typical NYC to LA flight. That is multiples of what dental imaging will ever give you but yet no one is concerned about jet-setting around the world. We're just pointing out facts here.


So, yes you can get your routine check up x-rays since it won't harm your newborn while you breastfeed. Your dentist is not trying to push x-rays on you so why are you still hesitating? You can go ahead and make that appointment already!


The Verdict

To summarize, based on the NIH study and the ACOG guideline it is safe to get dental x-rays while you're breastfeeding. To this date, there have been no known detrimental side effects on lactation from ionizing radiation. It also does not affect breast milk production nor does any side effects linger within the milk after imaging.


What that means is that nursing mothers are cleared to receive dental care and treatment. In fact, they are encouraged to resume dental care since some mothers choose to put off dental treatment such as cavity fillings for small tooth decay while they were pregnant.


Therefore, don't let the words dental radiation scare you from receiving the care that you need and deserve. Studies have already proven that the radiation doses from the dentist are negligible relative to everything else in life.


There have been no reported side effects to a human fetus from radiation as much as 50 mGy. Dental x-rays only give about 0.013 and 0.005 mGy depending on the type of x-ray. In order to exceed that limit you would need to take about 10,000 dental x-rays.


Basically, you are safe to get your routine radiographs at your dentist visit! At our dental practice, we do not delay care just because you're nursing.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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