Dental x-rays – Do they cause brain tumors?

On 10 April 2012, an online study was published in Cancer, an American Cancer Society peer reviewed journal.  This study interviewed people that remembered having dental x-rays over their lifetime were more likely to have meningiomas (the most common type of benign brain tumors) than those that didn’t remember having many x-rays.

This study has received much national attention, even though there was no way to statistically validate what people thought they remembered over their lifetime.  No dental records were checked to compare people and memories.  Can you remember even 5 years ago how many dental x-rays you had?  They were asked to remember how many x-rays they had between the ages of 10-50.

Unfortunately, several of HealthPark’s patients have not allowed us to take dental x-rays believing the old adage “Where there is smoke, there is fire!”.

If you are concerned about dental x-ray radiation, don’t be.  Recent advances in dental radiology have made x-rays very safe.  Here are the facts:

Understanding that radiation comes from:

  1. Cosmic rays
  2. Radioactive materials in the ground
  3. Microwaves
  4. Television
  5. Food

 Steps we take to limit even this amount of radiation:

  1. Long cone x‑ray parallels the radiation beam and reduces scatter radiation.  The old pointed head cones throw off great amounts of scatter radiation.  They are no longer sold.
  2. Lead shielding (including thyroid shield)
  3. We only take necessary X-rays
  4. Rinn x-ray holders make the x-rays more accurate
  5. Digital X-rays reduce radiation by 60% – we have used digital for almost 10 years

 Why do we take dental x-rays?  To see:

  1. Decay between the teeth
  2. Bone loss around the teeth
  3. Bone support for drifting teeth
  4. Abscessed teeth
  5. Reference for the future
  6. Extra teeth, wisdom teeth
  7. Tumors

Every member of our staff that takes x-rays has passed a state board exam on dental radiology.

In our office, these situations require X-rays:

  1. Emergencies – a PA x-ray and/or decay x-rays as needed
  2. Recall checkups – The healthier the client, the fewer decay x-rays are needed.  A healthy client will only need 1 pair of x-rays every 2 years.  If you suspect decay or there has been decay within one year, then we take 4 decay X-rays.
  3. Thorough new client exam – one set of periapicals and decay X-rays
  4. 5 year review – Clients who have been in the office at least five years will be offered a “review” new client exam.  At this time, you would take a panoramic film and decay X-rays or a full series of x-rays.

For our New patient Children

  1. By age 4 – We take upper and lower occlusal x-rays by age four to rule out supernumerary (extra) teeth, growth and  development defects, and congenitally missing teeth.
  2. By age 5
    1. Decay X-rays
    2. Check decay (pulp aberrations)
    3. Growth and development of 6 year molars
    4.  Thickness of enamel in primary dentition
    5.  Enamel discolorations
    6. More than 6 years old, or younger with decay – 2 decay X-rays (largest size possible) and a panoramic X-ray to check growth/any abnormalities

Finally, other researchers are responding to this article with comments including

  1. “very flawed study”
  2. “biologically impossible”

If you have further questions, please ask us. For our patients in the Tipp City, Troy and the entire Dayton Ohio area, we understand that this topic has raised a level of concern. We are happy to be a resource for you as you seek to understand this study and make the right health care choices for your family.

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