Posted: Apr 18, 2012 at 10:21 AM [Apr 18, 2012]
It’s been all over the news this week – “Dental X-rays Linked to Brain Cancer”. A new study was published that attempted to link past dental x-rays to brain tumors. The media coverage has been overwhelming and scary. Unless you look beyond the headlines, you may have decided that dental x-rays are bad for you. But please read on . . .
My job as a dentist is to help people improve and maintain their oral health. The last thing I would ever want to do is harm patients or put them at risk of later medical problems. So with that in mind, let’s look at this new study a little more closely.
- The researchers did a case study comparing two groups of people. One group was patients who have already been diagnosed with a meningioma, an uncommon brain tumor, the other group was healthy patients. The researchers asked the patients in the study to remember how many, and what types of x-rays they had in the past. So the data for the study was dependent on what patients remembered from their dental past. How many people can accurately remember how many x-rays they had in 1995? How many people can remember if they had a full mouth x-ray series, a panoramic x-ray or bitewing x-rays in 2001?
- The researchers found a link between past x-ray exposure and meningiomas. X-rays in the past used much higher levels of radiation then by today’s standards. And digital x-rays use much, much less radiation than current film x-rays. So current x-ray technologies cannot be accurately compared with past radiation exposure.
- Additionally the researchers showed a higher link between meningiomas and 4 film bitewing x-rays than 22 film full mouth x-rays. This is very confusing because you would expect more radiation to have more of an effect.
- At best, this study “linked” dental x-rays to meningiomas. “Linked to” is not the same as “caused by”. It only means that the data showed a relationship between the two factors. The media loves hyping these “links” because they make great headlines. But these “links” don’t prove anything.
- More research will be done to examine these factors to help us further understand the relationship. But until then, don’t assume!
Finding and treating dental problems early can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort. At Liberty Dental, we take x-rays is to examine parts of the teeth and mouth that we cannot see with the naked eye. X-rays can help reveal:
- Small areas of decay between the teeth or under existing fillings
- Infections in the bone
- Gum disease
- Developmental abnormalities
- Some types of tumors
Taking all this information into account, I encourage all of you to have a conversation with your dentist to help you decide the best dental diagnostics for you, including dental x-rays.
Kristin E. Johnson, DDS
Liberty Dental, PLC
To learn more about dental x-rays, check out the American Dental Association’s Q & A information page at http://ada.org/3067.aspx?currentTab=1