The article that follows attests that even getting just the bitewing x-rays increases the risk of brain tumors slightly. If you get the full-mouth x-rays, it increases the risk much more. This really does not surprise me because 30 years ago, Dr. Jon Gofman, a leading physician/scientist with vast knowledge of the biological effects of radiation, said that dental x-rays would do this.However, I am going to keep getting the bite-wing x-rays because it is the only way for the dentist to see between the teeth. I don't do them every year, but I do them and will continue to do them every other year. I think it's worth it because the health of the teeth and gums has great effect on your general health and your resistance to disease. And it's also a matter of peace of mind. Howeer, I never do the full-mouth x-rays. I only do the 4 bite-wing x-rays, where you bite down on the tab. And that is what I recommend to you.
People who received frequent dental X-rays a generation ago, before stricter radiation dosages were put in place, are at greater risk for developing a type of non-cancerous brain tumor, according to Yale University researchers.
The findings are being published today in the American Cancer Society's online journal, Cancer.
"We know people will be very concerned, but we are not telling people they should stop going to see their dentist," said the study's lead author, Dr. Elizabeth Claus, a professor at Yale's School of Public Health and an attending neurosurgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
The Yale study looked at more than 1,400 people from Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, California and Texas who were diagnosed with a meningioma, a non-cancerous tumor that can cause a range of medical problems with vision, speech and motor control, as well as causing headaches. The study also looked at a similar group of people who did not have a meningioma.
The average age of the patients was 57, according to Claus.
Researchers found that patients with meningioma were twice as likely to have had dental X-ray exams since childhood in which they bit down on a tab of X-ray film at least once a year. That type of test is known as a bitewing exam.
There was an even stronger link between meningioma and the panorex dental exam, in which a single X-ray picture of teeth is taken outside of the mouth. Patients who had this exam when they were younger than 10 years old had a nearly five times greater risk for meningioma.
Claus pointed out that today's dental X-ray technology and practices use significantly lower radiation dosages than in the past. She estimated there has been at least a 50 percent reduction in dosage since the 1980s.
Meningioma occurs in eight out of every 100,000 people, according to the National Institutes of Health. This makes it a rare disease, even though it is the most commonly diagnosed brain tumor.
In a statement released to the media, the Chicago-based American Dental Association says it has a long-standing position that "dentists should order dental X-rays for patients only when necessary for diagnosis and treatment," but called certain aspects of the Yale study into question.
The association faulted the study for relying on "individuals' memories of having dental X-rays taken years earlier," and that "results of studies that use this design can be unreliable because they are affected by what scientists call 'recall bias.'"
The ADA stresses it encourages use of protective aprons and thyroid collars on all patients to minimize radiation exposure. It also says X-rays are needed to detect oral diseases that can't be found through visual and physical examination.
Claus says the Yale study looked into a connection between meningioma and dental X-rays because ionizing radiation is the "most consistent environmental factor" known to be a risk factor for the tumor.
Claus also says the study should serve as a starting point to examine how often dental X-rays are necessary even with today's practices and technology. She says the American Dental Association suggests that children have one dental X-ray every one to two years, that teens have one every one and a half to three years, and that adults have one every two to three years.
"It is worthwhile to have a discussion as to whether they are needed in every instance," Claus says. "That is probably our biggest message."