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Dental mythbuster 3: Dental radiography / X-rays

  • Organisations we regulate

Our priority is to carry out an assessment of the quality of primary care dental services. From this we make a judgement about whether they provide people with care that is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led, based on whether the regulations are being met.

Our inspectors will consider this topic of dental x-rays when they review if the practice is safe and well-led, which relate to regulation 15 (premises and equipment) and regulation 17 (monitor, assess and improve quality and safety).

What regulations apply to the safe practice of dental radiography/X-rays?

In addition to the fundamental standards, there are two sets of regulations which dental practices must comply with in relation to the use of X-ray equipment in a primary care dental practice:

If serious concerns were identified inspectors would alert the CQC IRMER team and/or HSE. The expectation is that the documentation required to satisfy the two sets of regulations would be in one place and form the dental practices Radiation Protection File.

If a practice is using a Cone Beam Computerised Tomography X-ray machine the inspector should consider asking the CQC IRMER team for further guidance.

Mandatory requirements

Professional guidelines: Guidance Notes for Dental Practitioners on the Safe Use of X-ray Equipment

  • HSE must be notified 28 days before:
    • the start of the routine use of dental X-ray equipment, or
    • where there is a change of premises, or
    • or a change of ownership of the practice, or
    • when there has been a 'material change' in the use of ionising radiation (eg use isotopes as well as/or instead of x-rays)
  • Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) - an individual or body who is recognised by the HSE to act as an RPA. Organisations recognised as RPA bodies are listed on the HSE website.
  • Radiation Protection Supervisor - normally a dentist at the practice but a suitably qualified dental nurse/hygienist/therapist can fulfil this role
  • A copy of the local Rules specific to each machine
  • Prior risk assessment, restriction of exposure, maintenance and examining of engineering controls, contingency plans, controlled areas
  • Critical Examination Packs, Acceptance Tests undertaken
  • Information and instruction training must be provided for all persons associated with dental radiography.

Professional guidelines:

Guidance Notes for Dental Practitioners on the Safe Use of X-ray Equipment

IRMER 2000

  • Meet the duty of the employer under IRR and IRMER as set out in the guidance notes for dental practitioners
  • Quality Assuarance programme which shall include adequate testing of dental X-ray equipment prior to first clinical use and then routinely after (carried out at least every 3 years)

Professional guidelines: IRMER 2000

  • Training and CPD in relation to dental radiography; for  GDC registrants this is 5 hours in each 5 year cycle
  • A dental treatment record card should contain a justification and report of the X-ray taken and a QA score
  • Provision must be made for clinical audit

Recommended practice

Professional guidelines: IRMER 2000

  • A current radiography audit.
Last updated:
10 August 2017


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