Last month a study associating dental radiographs with brain tumors was published in Cancer, an American Cancer Society peer-reviewed journal. The study found that people with meningiomas (typically benign brain tumors) are more likely to report that they’ve had certain dental X-rays in their lifetimes. This study was subsequently picked up by Yahoo news and I read it in either Newsweek or Time – I can’t remember which one. Anyway, when I read it they referred to people who had had panolipse X-rays annually for 20 years. My initial reaction was, “who takes a panolipse every year?” I typically recommend a panolipse every five years unless I am tracking something very specific.
Upon further review of the study the results rely on individuals’ memories of having dental X-rays taken years earlier. Studies have shown that the ability to recall information is often incorrect. Therefore the results of the study, by design, are unreliable. According to the study report, “Participants were asked the number of times they had received bitewings, full-mouth, or panolipse films” during four stages of life: before age 10, between 10 and 19, between the ages 20-49 and up to the age of 50. My experience is that many of my clients couldn’t accurately tell you when they last had their teeth cleaned, let alone what types of x-rays were taken. Dr. Alan G. Lurie, a radiation biologist and head of radiology at the University Of Connecticut School Of Medicine, has many concerns about the study’s design and outcomes and believes the study was very flawed. Case in point is that the study indicated that the risk of meningiomas was greater with two to four bitewings than with a full series of x-rays (which is four bitewings plus 16 additional films.) They reported that one bitewing has 50 to 100 percent greater risk than a full mouth series.
Rather than go into more detail, I believe it is important for you to realize a couple of things. One, at the studio we utilize digital radiographs which reduces the amount of radiation exposure by upwards of 60% of previous dental x-rays. Two, I will recommend the minimal amount of x-rays that I feel is necessary to adequately diagnose dental disease. As an example, I will typically recommend bitewing x-rays once every two years rather than yearly unless as person has a very high decay rate. Your overall health is truly my primary concern.