Are Dental X-rays Safe?

  • Posted on: Apr 16 2012
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Are Dental X-rays Safe? Is There a Link to Brain Cancer?

Many of you may have seen a report published recently online concerning a possible relationship between bitewing dental x-rays and brain cancer. At Smiles 4 A Lifetime, we have always respected the ionizing radiation produced by dental x-rays and have followed the American Dental Association list of guidelines for radiation exposure for decades. Additionally, we have installed digital x-rays seven years ago which substantially decreases by almost two thirds, the amount of radiation exposure needed to produce quality x-rays.

Without dental x-rays we would not be able to treat the diseases of the mouth, namely periodontal disease and cavities which would put our patients at great risk for pain and suffering and tooth loss. Feel free to discuss with us at any time the guidelines for x-rays concerning children, adolescents and adults with varying degrees of dental diseases. Basically, we only x-ray when it benefits the patient. That could be two years for one individual and more or less frequently for another.

As far as the study goes and the reports that followed, it is greatly flawed in several areas:

1. There actually was No scientific study done! That’s right. People were simply asked to remember if they actually had bitewing x-rays many years prior! Then they compared two groups of people with and without meningioma to remember about their x-ray exposure. No documentation was ever produced. Well, we all watch CSI….If there’s no evidence, how does anyone know what was done decades ago? How can a scientific study be based on memory?!

2. The study claims to have found a link with bitewing x-rays (four posterior cavity detecting x-rays) but none with a full mouth series of x-rays (EIGHTEEN x-rays!!). If four x-rays show a link to meningioma, wouldn’t eighteen of them show an even greater link? No such evidence was found.

3. Most of the people asked had x-rays taken decades ago when much higher settings and slower x-ray film was used. Today, we don’t even use film! Patients seldom remember when they had x-rays and what type they were. At Smiles 4 A Lifetime we have been using digital x-rays at much lower settings to minimize patients exposure. No such technology existed for the patients in the study to benefit from.

The bottom line is that over exposing patients to ionizing radiation has never and will never be a standard anywhere in dentistry. The American Dental Association has made very clear standards and when they are followed patients, are quite safe. Remember, ionizing radiation is the same energy that is produced by the sun which you are exposed to all of the time. A dental lead apron, digital x-rays and better machines are the “SPF” of dental x-rays. Feel free to discuss this or any other concerns you have with anyone on our team.

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