A recent study published in an early electronic version of Cancer, a publication of The American Cancer Society, links dental x-ray exposure to brain tumors, specifically meningioma. If you have not yet seen the study, you can read the abstract here.

Whenever a story like this breaks, most people's first reaction is to panic without investigating further. This is an issue dentists have always had to discuss with patients.

There are guidelines in place to ensure that patient exposure to x-ray radiation is kept to a minimum and only when necessary for diagnosis and treatment. Remember the ALARA Principle? However, this doesn’t prevent the fact that many of you have already experienced the questions about safety and risk from you patients and have had to explain the nature of the study.

From the article abstract, the population-based case-control study included 1,433 patients who had intracranial meningioma diagnosed at ages 20 to 79 years. The main finding receiving the bulk of the attention is exposure to some dental x-rays performed in the past – when radiation exposure was greater than today – suggests an increased risk of intracranial meningioma.

What are your thoughts? I find the “self reporting” aspect of the dental x-ray history contained in this study troubling and quite possibly irresponsible. Did they ask about other types of x-rays? What about other forms of radiation exposure such as airplane travel, cell phone use, or even proximity to high tension power lines?

Have you had patients asking you about the study? Radiation exposure? Brain tumors? What has been your response?

Let us know in the comments area below.

Comments

Commenter's Profile Image Jeff Danner
April 16th, 2012
We've had several patients ask about the study and even one patient that brought the article with her to her appointment. Basically, we're explaining the same things that you just mentioned in your blog. The study has done nothing but scare people into thinking their going to get cancer if they recieve dental x-rays, completely ignoring how technology has advanced and the undeniable benefits to their dental health.
Commenter's Profile Image Karen Gordon
April 16th, 2012
I also thought that the fact that many of us use digital X-rays now is important. The radiation from a digital X-ray is supposedly significantly lower. This would mean they are comparing apples and oranges if they are comparing the amt or radiation emitted from an older unit to what is in use today.