Many of you may have heard about the recent study on dental x-rays being linked to an increase in brain tumors. The media can have a very interesting way on sensationalizing news bites and not presenting ALL the information necessary for the general public to form truly educated opinions. Let me begin by saying that as a truly conservative dentist in Federal Way, we always treat dental radiation from a “life-ling” exposure standpoint. We will do everything we can to minimize the quantity of dental x-rays taken.
The current study that has gained media attention is one that measured exposure to dental radiation in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The tumors that they stated take several decades to even develop. Since the time of the study’s data gathering, dental x-ray film speeds, as well as restrictors within the x-ray head have dramatically reduced the time and the exposure generated while taking a film. A full mouth series of x-rays(18-20 films) exposes a patient to 1/3 of the radiation of a single chest x-ray. Digital x-rays reduce that even more. The dental community, as a whole, has always been on the forefront of safety. We continue to be diligent and strive to improve safety and the quality of care all the time!
The study, while important in stressing the need for continued vigilance, does not provide a balanced summary. First, they do not even make the same products that the study cites. Patients are now draped with lead aprons and thyroid protectors to protect the neck and brain stem. The study also based its findings on patient “recollection” not scientifically identifying the actual exposure the patients received. A fellow dental professional made a good analogy….it would be like comparing a 1972 Ford Mustang to a 2012 Ford Mustang. Our techniques and technologies are even more advanced!
The approach of Dr. Lee and the team at Avalon Family Dentistry as a Dentist in Federal Way, is to look at each and every patient individually. We do not use a “one approach” fits all philosophy, nor are we an office that simply recommends procedures simply because they are covered by a benefit plan. If a patient has a low caries rate, there is not a need to take x-rays yearly. A full mouth series of x-rays may be recommended once very 5-7 yrs and bitewing(check-up) x-rays may only be recommended every 2 years. For a patient with a HIGH caries rate, the recommendation of yearly x-rays may be the only way for us to help prevent the need for major dental treatment! You can see by the example
of x-ray we have provided that many things can be going on, and as a patient, you might not even have symptoms!