Dentist responds to study linking x-rays to non-cancerous tumors

Remember when your dentist asks you puts something in your mouth and asked you to bite down? They call it a bite-wing x-ray. Well now there's news; people who've had more than one a year may have a 40 to 90 percent greater risk of developing non-cancerous brain tumors. Now some dentists are saying hold-on just a minute.

The lead lined aprons you wear in the dentist's chair limit the amount of radiation you're exposed to during a x-ray. Dr. Tom Foster says guidelines from the American Dental Association also protect patients from the potentially harmful effects of x-rays. Foster says, "In our office we do it once a year unless we see there's an additional problem."

Foster's responding to a study suggesting a possible link between frequent x-rays and non-cancerous brain tumors. The research focused largely on patients who'd had old style film x-rays in the past.

According to Foster, that's not exactly current because..."Most dentists now have gone to a digital type x-ray which don't use film at all. It's simply a sensor that picks up the x-ray beam..."

It's faster, so there's less radiation exposure. The study did include panoramic x-rays. Still, Foster believes current guidelines are sufficient to protect patients.  He says "If you follow the protocol and it's not overdone, it's very safe."

According to the ADA, only people with serious dental problems need more than one x-ray a year. Patients who've never had a cavity and no other issues, can get by with one, every two or three years. If someone doesn't want to have an x-ray, Dr. Foster says he's okay with that. He just tells the patient, it increases the odds of him missing something during the exam.

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