Dental X-rays and your health

A link to brain tumors.

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Dental X-rays—at least the old-fashioned kind—have a down side. A new study has uncovered a link between the annual dental X-rays performed in the past and a kind of intracranial tumor called a meningioma.

Meningiomas are usually benign, but some may cause seizures, vision problems, and loss of speech and motor control, and they often require surgery. “Ionizing radiation is a known risk factor associated with the development of these tumors,” says the study’s lead author, Yale biostatistician and neurosurgeon Elizabeth B. Claus ’88PhD. Claus and her team wanted to see if there was a connection between meningiomas and radiation from dental X-rays.

The researchers compared the dental X-ray history of 1,433 patients who’d had surgery to remove a meningioma with 1,350 control-group subjects who hadn’t had meningiomas. The study, in the April 10 online issue of Cancer, found that people in the first group were 30 to 90 percent more likely (depending on age) to report having had bitewing X-rays—the kind in which the patient bites on a covered piece of film—once a year or more.

Radiologists and dentists question the importance of the study because digital X-rays, introduced in 1987, have cut radiation exposure by more than 60 percent, according to the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology.  


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