Researchers have discovered an alarming link — regular x-rays at the dentist’s office could double a patient’s risk for developing a brain tumor.
In a study published Tuesday in the journal†Cancer, scientists and doctors asked 1,433 patients with†ismeningioma, the most common form of brain tumor, about their dental records. After comparing them with patients without the tumor, they found that patients with the tumor were more likely to have reported yearly regular x-rays.
So, should you be concerned? Let’s break down some of the key facts:
- The study itself was a “case control study,” meaning that researchers relied more on interviews with pre-selected patients about their medical histories than a randomized population sample. These types of studies are often not as reliable.
- The patients had to remember what sorts of treatments they received in the past; this is not always the most reliable way of ascertaining medical history.
- The amount of radiation in dental x-rays has decline significantly in recent decades.
- In 2006, the American Dental Association published guidelines that advised dentists to perform clinical observations before using x-ray technology.
- Ismeningioma is a very rare tumor, affecting only about 5,000 Americans every year.
- It is usually not a malignant tumor, and more people with the tumor live healthy, normal lives than don’t.
This is not to say you shouldn’t be concerned, to be clear, about developing brain tumors from dental x-rays. Rather, it’s important to recognize that this study only proves the suggestion of a link between the two. Indeed, the study’s lead author, neurological surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Claus, told NBC, “Our take home message is donít panic. Donít stop going to the dentist…” She recommends that patients talk with their dentists about using x-rays as infrequently as possible.