Are dental X-Rays harmful to your health?

Paula Wolfson,

WASHINGTON – Researchers say adults who had frequent dental X-rays as kids now face an increased risk of a common type of non-cancerous brain tumor.

Dr. Alex Naini, a Vienna-based dentist, says patients have a right to be concerned about any type of radiation exposure, but she says it is important to consider all the facts when looking at the latest study from the Yale School of Public Health.

She says the study, published in the online journal of the American Cancer Society, looks at the cumulative effects of X-ray technology that has actually been phased out.

“They are going back a long time ago,” says Naini, “and they are going back to when radiation exposure was a lot more.”

It seems dentists – like most photographers – have switched to digital images.

“Nowadays, with digital X-rays, exposure is 90 percent less,” says Naini.

She says dental X-rays don’t provide as much exposure to radiation as getting on a plane. But she notes the effects are cumulative over time, and unnecessary exposure should be avoided.

Naini says X-rays remain an important diagnostic tool, especially for children “because their teeth and jaws are still developing, or if they have decay, or something else going on they can’t necessarily tell you about.”

She says dentists need to weigh the benefits of taking X-rays against the risks of exposure.

Generally, people who have some sort of periodontal disease or a history of decay should get bitewings every year. But she says those with no history of dental problems and no signs of trouble, may be able to take a pass.

The American Dental Association continues to recommend a full mouth set of X-rays every five years. But Naini says the ADA guidelines are just that – guidelines. She says the best course of action for any patient, is to work out a timetable with his or her dentist.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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