Q. I recently was watching a morning news program and they said there was a study that linked dental X-rays to brain tumors. Is this true?
A. The study I think you are referencing was done on people with brain tumors. I have been following it closely and it seems to have many flaws. The authors of the study asked the patients how many panorex, bitewings, and periapical X-rays they had undergone and when they had received them. The in formation for this study relied on patients memories of X-rays made years before. I am a dentist and I can’t remember when my last X-rays were exactly, so I doubt other people can remember this accurately. That being said, X-rays are a source of radiation, and radiation is known to cause cancer. According to the American Dental Association, X-rays should never be done routinely. A dentist should determine which, if any, X-rays a person needs, and customize them to each and every patient. Each year in Tennessee, every dental X-ray head is calibrated to make sure correct doses are administered. In my office, we use digital X-ray sensors to cut the radiation down exponentially. Also, we use advanced laser guided collimation that helps to lower the dose of X-rays significantly. As dental professionals we look for every opportunity to lower the X-ray dose.The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that an exposure of 50 mSv per year is the maximum safe level of radiation per year from all sources. To put that in perspective, a standard set of 4 bitewing X-rays done at a dental office with film has a dose of .038 mSv. The same X-rays done with digital sensors has a dose of .013 mSv. So adding that up, you could take over 10,000 digital bitewing X-rays a year and not reach the maximum safe level. X-rays in dentistry are not taken lightly; the exposure is purposely kept to a minimum. The profession is aware and concerned. There are great benefits that can be derived from X-ray use in dentistry, and the benefits outweigh the small risk associated with the radiation.
Mark D. McOmie, D.M.D.
McOmie Family Dentistry
5999 Shallowford Road
Chattanooga, TN 37421