Dental X-rays and Brain Tumors What are the Risks?
There have been recent studies linking dental x-rays to common brain tumors called meningioma’s. In our constant effort to keep our patients informed on the most recent dental information we assembled the facts about this study and its findings and our views on dental x-rays.
The study suggests that dental x-rays, particularly when obtained frequently and at a young age, may be associated with an increased risk of an intracranial meningioma. The study compared dental and therapeutic radiation histories in 1433 patients against a control group of 1350 subjects. The study was conducted via telephone interviews with patients and information accrued via patients memory. Due to dental records being held at various offices, researchers were unable to validate the samples history due to time and financial considerations.
- The study states that: “No studies have reported on the association between use of computed tomography (CT) and meningioma risk” as well as: ” The studies that report on dental x-ray exposure are suggestive but are limited by sample size and by the inclusion of cases from time periods with higher dosing regimes than the current era”
- Meningioma’s are common benign brain tumors originating in the meninges. As reported by the Cancer Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, “Primary brain tumors represent only 2% of all cancers, with 35,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States,” “Meningioma’s occur at a rate of 7.8 per 100,000 per year, but only 25% are believed to be symptomatic, with the others being found incidentally.” Because the overall prognosis for this type of tumor is good and the tumors are commonly asymptomatic, only being found incidentally, many doctors do not recommend treating them and opt to observe the tumors instead.
- Dr. Elizabeth Claus, the lead author of the study reported is quoted as saying: “Our take home message is don’t panic. Don’t stop going to the dentist” and ” Our study refers to exposures in the past rather than exposures that people are receiving in this day and age”
- The American Dental Association’s position on dental x-rays is that dentists should order dental x-rays for patients only when necessary for diagnosis and treatment.
So the take home message from this study, as we have interpreted it, is that this is a subject that is important and should be studied further. Because of how the study was conducted and the resulting opportunities for misinformation I can only take this study as a suggestion of a correlation. This study has brought to light possibilities for increased risk of tumors that should be evaluated using current day risk factors, including exposure to other forms of ionizing radiation as well as solid dental histories in order to give us a better idea of the true potential or x-ray risk and meningioma’s. That being said, x-rays are a crucial part of dental diagnosis, not only for cavities but for lesions of the surrounding structures as well. We have always followed the ALARA principle, which stands for As Low as Reasonably Achievable. In our practice we utilize digital radiographs to lower exposure to radiation and recommend radiographs depending on each patients risks level for new decay. Typically we ask for a full set of x-rays every 5-7 years and check up x-rays every 1-2 years depending on the individual.
Dental x-rays and risk of meningioma; Elizabeth B. Claus MD, PhD1,2,§,*, Lisa Calvocoressi PhD1, Melissa L. Bondy PhD3, Joellen M. Schildkraut PhD4, Joseph L. Wiemels PhD5, Margaret Wrensch PhD5,6