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A recent study in Cancer suggested that an increase in frequency of dental xrays is associated with an increased risk of the meningioma brain tumor. Unfortunately, there are some serious problems with this study!

The researchers relied on patient memory to state how many dental xrays they had undergone over the last 50 years.   None of their dentists were contacted to verify.

My patients, when questioned, have an extremely difficult time remembering when, and how many xrays were taken last at their general dentist’s office. The most common answer I get is that they were taken 3 to 6 months ago, and a ‘full’ set was taken. When verified, we more often than not discover it has been 1 to 5 years since the last films, and only 4 bite wing radiographs were taken. A ‘full’ set is 18 films. Given my experience, isn’t it likely the numbers of xrays were overstated by patients?

Our current dental xrays use a small fraction of the radiation used only a few years ago. We went from regular film to high speed, and now the digital images use even less radiation. We get radiation from our general environment, from flying, from smoking, from our smoke detectors, from the foods we eat, and yes, from medical or dental xrays.  The American Nuclear Society has an interesting chart at http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/docs/dosechart.pdf that can help you estimate your exposure.

Dental xrays are necessary to diagnose and treat cavities, gum disease, missing teeth, and lesions. Dentists must have them available to adequately treat a patient. Please don’t let fear keep you from avoiding them!

Dr Susan Baker