Do Dental X-Rays Cause Cancer

Posted December 29, 2010.

Recently on the Dr. Oz show, he reported that an increase in thyroid cancer especially in women could be caused by dental x-rays. I want to share some important points with you about dental x-rays:

1. The amount of radiation we get from dental X-rays is so small. In the past we used to expose patients for 40 seconds per x-ray, now with digital x-rays the exposure is just 7 seconds. For example, assume you are exposed for 40 seconds for each X-ray times 20 films which is a full mouth series we do once every 5 years, you will still not be exposed as much as if you are when you walk or sit in the sun for just a half hour. You will also get the more exposure by being in front of the TV for half hour not protected with lead shield. We get more harm from the sun than we get from x- rays.

2. The way x-rays are directed and contained: In the past we had the cone shaped x-ray machines which scattered the rays to all directions. This has been changed to a cylindrical shaped cone x-ray machines which is more site specific and does not scatter x-rays to all directions at all.

3. The sensitivity of cells towards X-rays: X-rays affect the growing cells more than the mature cells. For example, in the case of a pregnant woman, the second trimester is the safest to do dental work with x-rays. Having said that, there is more danger to the fetus by not doing anything when a dental problem occurs at any point during the pregnancy. Given the knowledge of the sensitivity of the growing cell to the x-rays, let’s see how the cancer cells behave. We all have cancer cells in our bodies, for whatever reason, and there are so many, we don’t even know what triggers this behavior. These cells start to multiply and grow in a strange and radical way. Traditionally, to kill these cells we do radiation therapy in addition to Chemo therapy.

4. Doing an exam or operating in dentistry without x-rays is like driving with your eyes blind folded, would you do that? Try it let me know what you think. It is the same thing with dentistry. We can’t see what is going on in the bone, sinuses, or teeth decay without taking x-rays. We also cannot do root canals, surgeries, extractions, crowns, implants etc………. and the list goes on without taking x-rays. Dentists only take 4 films per year every year to check for cavities, shape and amount of bone loss, and many other things that outweigh the minute exposure to dental x-rays. The bottom line, you cannot expect to keep your teeth and gums healthy for life without the benefit of x-rays.

5. Let’s look at our environment: the water, the air, the laser games, TVs, radio waves we can’t see. All these are one way or another harmful to us, but we live and the span of our lives in today’s society is longer than in the past when people lived much more simply. Has anyone walked in the cemetery in Plymouth where pilgrims first settled; the oldest survivor was 50 years of age.

6. For something to be really harmful it needs to be repeated everyday with intensity.

So, relax everyone don’t panic. Make sure you brush and floss every day, and get your dental check-up regularly. Enjoy healthy, teeth and gums for life.

Happy New Year!