A study published this month in the American Cancer Society’s journal Cancer reported that they have found a link between certain kinds of dental x-rays and the most common type of brain tumor. Meningioma is almost always benign, but is often debilitating and often require surgery.
The x-ray that that was the biggest concern is associated with more than twice the likelihood of this type of brain tumor. That dental x-ray is the bitewing x-ray. I’m sure you’ve seen this one, I got it at almost every dental visit when I was young. It’s the one where you hold that weird film down in place by biting it and the edges often pinch at your mouth or cheek if you’re not careful.
The study compared the self-reported dental X-ray histories of 1,433 adults who had the meningioma brain tumor with 1,350 adults who had not ever had these types of x-rays. The meningioma brain tumor group was two times as likely as the control group to report ever having had a bitewing x-ray exam. But, also, the meningioma group also was more likely to report having had a panorex exam as a child or on a yearly basis. The panorex x-ray is the one that is taken outside the mouth and shows all of the teeth in one film.
Now, the study’s author says it doesn’t yet prove that dental x-rays cause these meningioma brain tumors and that more research would be able to make that claim. They point out that perhaps the test subjects were more inclined to remember childhood x-rays because they were looking for a cause of their tumor. However, dental experts, according to this report, already recommend practitioners only use x-rays on their patients when absolutely needed. Dr. Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society said, “We need more data before we can even begin to state there is a relationship between dental x-rays and these tumors. Until that research is done, the best advice we can give people is to get dental x-rays when they are necessary and only when they are necessary.”
I haven’t found that the dentists I have gone to recently are subscribing to that policy though, which is the point of this post. Since many of your children presumably see a dentist that may follow the similar x-ray at every check-up policy that is apparently outdated, we as parents need to be proactive in this.
I’m not suggesting you go against a dentist’s advice and refuse x-rays for your children. The concerns that this study brought up are just an incentive to me to make sure that my children avoid any unneeded x-rays and avoid the standard annual dental x-rays all together.