Let’s go back in time; you’re six years old, and you are going to your first dental appointment. This visit is probably the first time you’ll have an X-ray taken of yourself. A dental hygienist comes in, places a heavy apron on you, and asks you to holdstill. The apron sits very heavily on your chest; you’re nervous but you feel protected. The hygienist pulls a camera-like object down from the ceiling on an arm and places it against your cheek, then walks out of the room with a button. You hear a brief “beep,” and the hygienist comes back into the room.
You just experienced the four main components of radiation safety: shielding, distance, time, and monitoring.
The apron is lead lined and was placed on you to shield you from the radiation source. Using absorber materials such as Plexiglas for beta particles and lead for X-rays and gamma rays is an effective way to reduce radiation exposure.
The hygienist taking the X-ray left the room and stepped as far away as possible away from the radiation source while still being able to operate the X-Ray machine. Doubling the distance between your body and the radiation source will divide the radiation exposure by a factor of four.
The “beep” was short and indicated the small amount of time you needed to be exposed to create a good image. Minimizing the time of exposure directly reduces the radiation dose.
The last piece of the radiation safety puzzle is monitoring exposure. The hygienist was likely wearing a monitoring device called a dosimeter to monitor his or her exposure over a period of time. Tracking exposure ensures “occupational workers” are exposed to the smallest amount of radiation possible. This safety step protects their health and keeps them compliant with regulations. Monitoring involves both tracking exposure through dosimetry and reporting exposure levels to ensure exposure remains ALARA.
Let’s fast forward to your first clinical experience as a sales professional. You check into a facility to support a device. As soon as you enter the procedural area, a professional operating the imaging equipment hands you a lead apron and says, “Here, wear this.” But this is a different situation and one that should not be taken so casually. You are now an occupational visitor who will be working in an environment where radiation is used daily. You need be trained on the radiation safety principles described above and wear a dosimeter to monitor your occupational exposure.
Further, you need to report your exposure levels to the hospitals you serve which is now possible through IntelliCentrics. If you follow this protocol, you will safeguard your own health and protect your facilities from the potential fines and citations that could result from not being fully compliant with radiation safety.
You didn’t realize it at the time, but you got your first lesson in radiation safety at the dentist’s office. Now it’s time to expand on what you learned with the comprehensive training available through IntelliCentrics and put it towards protecting yourself, the patients, and the facilities you serve. We all play a role.