Other Situations in Which You Might Be Asked to Have an X-ray Examination

There are two situations where you could be asked to be exposed to ionising radiation which is not part of your dental care. The first is if you are asked to help with someone else being X-rayed by being a “carer or comforter”.  The second is if you are asked to take part in a research project as a volunteer.

Carers and comforters

For some patients, having an X-ray examination is difficult or impossible due to practical difficulties in positioning or remaining still. The reasons may be disability, injury, mental disorders or old age.  Radiography of young children may also present significant challenges to the dentist since it can be expected that they fear the X-ray examination or are simply too small and unable to remain still for as long it is necessary to make an X-ray image. In such cases, the patient needs help and a dentist or an X-ray technician operating the X-ray device may ask you to support the patient or remain with the patient during the imaging. 

A dentist or an X-ray technician will not ask you to support and help the patient unless they assess that your exposure to ionising radiation will result in sufficient benefit, taking into account your potential benefit and personal detriment that exposure might cause as well as the direct benefit for the patient’s health. In the context of dental medicine, it is easy to see the benefit for the parent helping with the X-ray examination of their child, or an adult son or daughter asked to support an elderly parent, since that might increase the chances of a successful X-ray examination, which in turn would facilitate correct diagnosis and successful treatment. 

While you are holding and helping the patient, you will be protected by adequate personal protective equipment (most often just a lead protective apron is enough), and before the imaging, you will be informed about the benefit and risk related to the patient’s dose as a result of medical imaging, of which a written record must exist.

Keep in mind that you are not allowed to support and help the patient if you are under the age of 18, pregnant or think you may be pregnant.

Exposures of volunteers in medical or biomedical research

The availability of volunteers to take part in research is essential and their involvement must follow the highest ethical standards. Medical exposures as part of research must be approved by a relevant ethical committee set up in accordance with special regulations. 

If you are asked to take part in a research study that involves exposure to ionising radiation, it is a requirement that you do so voluntarily. Consent must be “informed”, meaning that you have to be told about any risks, including those associated with any X-ray examination that may be included in the research.