Dental X-Rays Causing More Harm Than Good?

Why are dentists taking so many radiographs? Survey says that most of the dentists believe that the risks of cancer from dental radiography are trivial.

Dental x-rays are the most frequently used radiologic procedure for healthy individuals.According to a recent study, the risk of cancer for a girl of 5 to 15 years from 4 Bitewing radiograph is about 1 in 130,000 and that from a Pan is about 1 in 200,000.Dentists are possibly causing about 967 new cancer cases per year in the head and neck regions. Most of the cancer risk is from intraoral and CBCT radiographs.

Measures for reduction:

Children are especially sensitive to x-rays, with girls more than twice as sensitive as boys.The number of cancer caused can be reduced by 75% i.e from 967 to 237 by following some simple measures as follows:

  • Rectangular collimation to limit the x-ray beam’s size
  • Stricter selection criteria to reduce the number of unnecessary radiographs
  • Use of Thyroid shields

Dose reductions of 80% have been reported when using rectangular collimators with thyroid shields in children.

“There should never be prescription of radiographs before a clinical examination,” first author Douglas Benn, DDS, PhD, a radiologist and professor of oral and maxillofacial imaging at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, advised. “Unfortunately, it is well-documented that most dentists will image patients on a routine (annual or semi-annual) basis, including those patients at low for dental caries,” he added later.

“Use of an informed consent form containing sufficient information to help the patient and dentist understand the risk of cancer formation may help to reduce the over prescription of dental radiographs,” Benn and Vig wrote.

Also read:  Mask Up! A Guide to Understanding Masks Currently Used in Dentistry

You can read more about the analysis here in the journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology.


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1 Comment

  1. Another aspect which is important, but not mentioned in the article is the risk the dentist has personally. Women dentists may be having a higher stastics of breast cancer. I personally know so many.

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