Most of us know that radiation from X-rays can be harmful to our body. High amounts of radiation exposure can increase the risk of several types of cancer. Ionizing radiation from X-rays can potentially damage the DNA. A recent study published in Cancer, Journal of the American Cancer Society, provides further evidence about the dangers of X-rays. This study shows that frequent dental X-rays are linked to brain tumor called meningioma.
Dental x-ray exams significantly increase risk of brain tumor
This research found that people who received dental X-rays frequently were more than twice as likely to develop meningioma. Meningioma is the most common and potentially debilitating type of non-cancerous brain tumor. This tumor occurs in the meninges, which is the membrane that is around the spinal cord and the brain. Some of the effects of meningioma are headaches, problems with vision, loss of speech and motor control. These tumors may not be detected for several years until the size of the tumor gets large.
Based on the research findings, the bitewing and panorex dental X-ray exams increase the risk of developing the brain tumor. Patients who received bitewing x-ray exams annually or more frequently were more than twice as likely to develop meningioma. In a bitewing exam, the X-ray film is held between the teeth.
Receiving a panorex exam annually or more frequently increased the risk even more. The individuals in the group receiving panorex exam were three times more likely than the control group to develop a tumor. Panorex dental exam is the exam in which the dentist uses an external device to take the X-ray of the entire set of the teeth.
Children under ten years old are most vulnerable to radiation
According to the study findings, children under 10 years old were the most vulnerable group. Since children are still growing, the cells in the body are more sensitive to radiation. As a result, the radiation affects them more than the adults. Children exposed to radiation from dental X-rays had five times the risk of developing a tumor.
Some critics of the study argue that the frequency of dental X-ray exams was based on what the volunteers remembered. They argue that not many people remember past events. So a better study is needed to strengthen the link between dental X-ray and brain tumor.
Challenge your dentist whether you really need the dental X-ray
So what do the research findings mean for all of us? Basically we have to be aware of the dangers of unnecessary X-rays. When you go to the dentist’s office, usually the dentist will recommend an X-ray during each visit. You can ask your dentist whether the X-ray is really necessary. Especially if you have a child who has no risk of dental cavity, you can challenge your dentist that an X-ray may cause more harm than benefits.
Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, wrote about the dangers of frequent dental X-rays among young children in his 2009 book , “Brain Surgeon: A Doctor’s Inspiring Encounters with Mortality and Miracles.” The main reason for his concern is that the X-rays are aimed at not only the jaw but also the lower brain. Dr. Black claims that he hasn’t had a dental X-ray in 20 years.
Skipping unnecessary X-ray exams is also a great way to save money. Some of the dental exams cost several hundred dollars and these exams may or may not be covered by insurance.
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