We take dental radiographs (formerly referred to as ‘X-rays’ before digital imaging was used) to reveal periodontal (gum) disease, abscesses, cysts and tumors, as well as the precise location of cavities and other signs of disease that cannot be detected visually. The digital imaging we use has a minute amount of radiation vs. dental x-rays of old systems that used “film.” So, I was naturally concerned when reading about a study that claims people who have had dental X-rays are more likely to develop a type of brain tumor called meningioma.
Meningiomas are the most common tumor formed in the head, with the vast majority being noncancerous. Depending on location, some require surgery to prevent them from causing eventual blindness or neurological damage.
This study involved patients whose tumors required surgery with the average age of participants being 57. This means their dental X-rays were likely of a higher radiation because of older technology. Depending on their age, those who’d had these exams yearly or more often were 1.4 to 1.9 times more likely to have had a meningioma. A troubling aspect of the study is that it relied upon participants’ memory of how many dental X-rays they’d had, including in childhood. Plus, the study fails to show that X-rays directly cause tumors.
It is estimated that the total of medical radiation in the U.S. contributes to less than 1% of all cancers. Four of these ‘older technology’ X-rays is about the same amount of radiation Americans are exposed to in a typical day. The technology we use is more than 90% less of these older technologies.
Our goal, as always, is to protect patients from any risk. This is why we use digital radiographs, water lines that are pure and sterilization procedures that exceed those required by OSHA and the CDC. At this time, even the American Dental Association (ADA) is skeptical about the study’s results. A released statement included, “Studies have shown that the ability to recall information is often imperfect,” and also pointed out that this study included people who received dental x-rays decades ago from older technology.