Operator Dose Reduction

Radiographic examinations are typically delegated to qualified (as mandated by state law) auxiliary personnel; dental assistants and dental hygienists. Qualified dental radiation workers are to comply with annual occupational whole-body radiation dose limits (Table 8). Occupational radiation dosimeters should be utilized by radiation workers who may receive an annual dose greater than 1 mSv and pregnant personnel operating x-ray equipment regardless of anticipated occupational exposure.1,29

Table 8. Occupational Whole-Body Dose Limits.27
Occupational Whole-Body Dose Limits
Type International Units Traditional Units
Annual 50 mSv 5 rems
Embryo-fetus (term) 50 mSv 5 rems
Embryo-fetus (term) 5 mSv 0.5 rems

Other methods to limit occupational exposure are listed in Table 9. Dental personnel should stand behind a protective barrier that permits observation of the patient during exposure. If a barrier is not present, the clinician should stand at a 6 feet/2 meters distance from the x-ray source and at a position greater than a right angle (90-135° angle) to the primary beam. If a handheld x-ray unit is used for intraoral imaging, the device must be used according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. The parameters of usage include:1

  1. holding the unit at mid-torso height,
  2. orienting the ring shield properly,
  3. and keeping the position-indicating device (PID) as close to the patient as possible.
  4. If the ring shield is not used during exposure, the operator should wear a lead apron.
Table 9. Limiting Operator Radiation Exposure.1
  • Proper education, training and/or certification/licensure per State regulations
  • Use of barrier protection techniques and/or distance and position rule during patient exposures
  • Adherence to annual occupational radiation dose limits
  • Use of personal dosimeters when indicated (operator annual dose > 1 mSv or if pregnant)
  • If handheld x-rays units are used for intraoral imaging, adherence to manufacturer instructions for safe use
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