Are Dental X-rays Safe?

By Dr. Elizabeth Fleming
December 31, 2013
Category: Uncategorized
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You may have read the report linking dental x-rays to brain tumors, and may be concerned about your exposure to x-rays in the dental office.  We understand your concerns at Desert Ridge Smiles, and want to decipher this study for you.

Dental x-rays are used in the diagnosis and treatment of dental conditions. We use them to evaluate and monitor problems such as decay and periodontal disease.  Without x-rays, we are unable to see the full seriousness of the problem.  In our office, we have upgraded our x-ray system to take digital x-rays, which have 80% less radiation than the traditional x-ray films used in the past.

The study linking brain tumors to dental x-rays is flawed in a few respects:

1) No scientific study.  In this study, patients were asked to recall their history of x-rays, but their answers were not verified by their dental records.  In my office, new patients do not always remember correctly when their last dental visit was, or how recent their x-rays were.  We verify the actual dates from the previous dentist, and then take x-rays according to the recommended ADA guidelines.  Patients are seldom accurate in their estimations of previous x-ray dates!

2) This study discusses exposure with film x-rays which were used predominately in the past.  Digital x-rays are used in many offices today, and they reduce radiation exposure by 80%.  Desert Ridge Smiles uses digital radiographs for all x-rays.

3) The study found a link with 4 bitewing x-rays, but no link with the 18 film full mouth series.  If 4 x-rays show a link to meningiomas, logically, wouldn’t 18 x-rays show a much greater link?  Researchers found no link to meningiomas for those who had taken full mouth series of x-rays.  Interesting!

Dr. Otis Brawley, scientific director of the American Cancer Society said, “the strongest thing you can say about this study is that there is a suggestion of a link between dental x-rays and meningioma.”

Should you avoid dental x-rays? No, this would not allow your dentist to accurately diagnose and treat your dental problems.  If you are concerned due to this recent report on dental x-rays, be sure you speak to your dentist.  We at Desert Ridge Smiles are seeking for you to obtain optimum dental health as well as overall health.  We most certainly would not want to contribute to any medical problems, and our use of proper guidelines ensures you are taken care of dentally, and medically at the same time!

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