Are Dental X-rays While Breastfeeding Safe?

Hand written by Dr David Chen, an actively practicing dentist and avid writer. #doctorswrite

Common sense dictates that dental x-rays should be avoided while you’re pregnant if they’re not absolutely necessary. However, what is the consensus for getting those same x-rays after giving birth such as while breastfeeding?

dental x-ray machine

Is it harmful or is it safe to receive dental x-rays while breastfeeding? What should mothers with newborns do in regards to their oral health while they’re nursing. Should they put off all dental care until after they stop breastfeeding or can they get care immediately post-partum?

Our purpose here today is to address all of the those questions. That way if you are a new mother, you can confidently make a decision about what to do with your teeth, your gums, and your overall oral health.

Is it harmful to get dental x-rays while breastfeeding?

It is certainly safe for mothers with newborns who are nursing 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 about exposing the fetus to radiation but after giving birth, the concern shifts towards whether dental x-rays can affect lactation. In other words, will it affect the production of milk and will residual radiation linger in the milk.

Those are all valid concerns because you don’t want to indirectly expose your newborn to unneeded radiation. Fortunately for all new mothers, they can take a breath of relief because there is no harm in receiving dental 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 such as chest x-rays while the mother is breastfeeding. They are all considered safe because the radiation from the x-ray are only present during the time that they are being taken.

What that means is that there is no residual radiation nor radioactivity that lingers on in the body and breast milk. That should assuage your fears of potentially nursing your newborn with radioactive milk since it turns out that there is no effect.

Thus, you don’t have to worry about having to wait a certain amount of time before you can breastfeed again. You can nurse your child as soon as you get up from the dental chair! It also means that you’re totally safe by the time you get back home as well.

In addition to that, the study also states that diagnostic x-rays have no known effect on the milk that is in the breast during the time of imaging. It also has no detrimental effect on the production of milk either.

Basically, the entire study states that you as a nursing mother do not need to take any special precautions in regards to getting imaging and radiation. Just follow the normal radiation protocol as if you were not nursing. There is nothing special that you need to do just because you’re breastfeeding.

Guidelines by the ACOG

The ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) published a guideline for diagnostic imaging during pregnancy and lactation. To be absolutely transparent, the guidelines don’t specifically mention dental diagnostic x-rays but they do include all of the medical x-rays such as MRI, sonograms, CT scans, and etc. All of those produce significantly greater levels of radiation than what you might 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.theyPerhaps 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.

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 earth.

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 xrayRadiation dose (mGy)
Dental CBCT0.2
Dental panoramic x-ray0.013
Dental intraoral x-rays0.005
Abdominal radiography0.1-3.0
Radiation doses reference chart

The radiation doses for the dental x-rays were from this study. As you can clearly see, taking routine dental x-rays are definitely safe. The total dosage of them don’t even amount to a whole integer for radiation. In fact, they’re less than what a fetus would normally get exposed to from just being alive.

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. Definitely safe to get x-rays without any risk to the fetus.

x-ray implant impression coping
intraoral dental x-ray

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.

The Verdict – are x rays safe and should you get them while breastfeeding?

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 are 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 for receiving dental care and treatment once they are post-partum and still breastfeeding. In fact, they are encouraged to resume dental care since some mothers choose to put off elective dental treatment such as cavity fillings for small tooth decay while they were pregnant.

Therefore, don’t let the words dental radiation put you off from receiving the care that you need and deserve. Studies have already proven that the doses which you receive from the dentist are very 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.

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. Why are you still hesitating? You can go ahead and make that appointment already!

We hope you learned something from this article. Please support us, afterva in our endeavours to provide you with the best oral health information.


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The purpose of the content at afterva is to encourage you to seek in person care with a doctor. It's not nor was it ever meant to be a substitute for medical advice. Every situation is unique and impossible to diagnose without a clinical exam.

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