How safe are those dental X-rays?

By Dr. Gene Grace
This is a response to the most recent dental X-ray “study” on Fox News last week.
I happened to be watching the news when two of Fox’s analyst physicians were discussing a new study of how dental X-rays could attribute to an increased risk of a benign brain tumor, menangioma. Medical studies, in order to be valid, must be conducted under the strictest controls.
There were a number of things which even the Fox physicians thought were amiss. For one, of the 2,800 people interviewed, much was depended upon their memories of what X-rays and how many were taken from years before. What made no sense is that a pair of bitewing (two) X-rays showed a greater risk than a panorex or full mouth series (13 or more). That alone should send up red flags. To put the whole study in perspective, the results would mean an increase of lifetime risk of menangioma from 15 out of 10,000 people to 22 out of 10,000 people.
Let me comment about X-rays. Radiation is measured in millirems. To fly from the East to the West Coast, one would receive 4 millirems of background radiation. It’s all around us. A dental digital (1/10 of older dental X-rays with film) X-ray emits .05 millirems. Thus, one transcontinental air flight is the equivalent of 80 digital X-rays.
Here are some comparative exposures: A mammography breast examination would be in the high dose group with 1,000 millirems. An abdomen, pelvis, skull or hip X-ray would be in the medium dose group. Most dental X-rays, such as dental full mouth series with digital or dental bitewing with digital, would be considered in the low dose group with less than 1 millirem.
When you weigh these facts against the consequences of tooth decay (i.e. root canals), periodontal problems, even oral cancer that can go undetected without dental X-rays, it’s obvious that having low dose dental (particularly digital) X-rays are safe and effective.
Gene Grace DDS is a graduate of Emory University School of Dentistry and practices with his daughter Katherine G. Hefner DMD at 970 Ribaut Road. Please their ad on Page 3.

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