6 Questions to Ask Before Getting a CT scan or X-ray

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A few months ago, I went to the dentist for a regular cleaning. A friendly assistant greeted me, led me to the dental chair, and wrapped a heavy plastic apron around my neck. She told me I was due for x-rays. My teeth and gums felt just fine. I thought to myself, didn’t I just get one last time? Rather than talk with a stranger about my mouth, I said, “OK” and bit down on a bitewing x-ray. As expected, the results were normal.

What I didn’t know at the time is that most people only need a teeth x-ray every 24 to 36 months, according to a new Consumer Reports article on medical radiation. Medical imaging tests that emit radiation, like CT scans and X-rays, can save lives when used properly, but research by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that one third of CT scans are unnecessary, and too much radiation can increase your cancer risk. Doctors are ordering over 80 million radiation-based imaging tests each year, yet many people aren’t told about the risks. Read on to learn more about how you can protect yourself from over-radiation.

Watch: What You Need to Know About Medical Radiation