Fear of Routine Dental X-rays

The NZ Herald published an article this week questioning the need for dental X-rays, implying that dentists take X-rays at an examination to find work to do to make more money (logic?), and linking them with meningioma. This followed a New York Times article reacting to a study published in the American Cancer Society Journal. This study was quite flawed in design and outcomes, according to an ADA review and by Dr. Alan G. Lurie, a radiation biologist.

This is a case of a bad product passing through several levels of bad reporting, each one being more ignorant than the previous, and ending up as uninformed scaremongering rubbish.

In the process it alarms a potentially large number of people and can result in much neglect, pain and suffering, and cost.

The figures:

5,000 mREM = SAFE LIMIT Annual whole body radiation exposure

19 mREM = 2 routine X-rays with D-speed film

6 mREM = 2 routine x-rays with DIGITAL SYSTEM

80 mREM = chest x-ray

406 mREM = lower GI x-ray

51 mREM = average annual radiation from the sky (Denver)

360 mREM = average annual radiation from natural sources (US)

Natural sources of radiation include outer space (higher levels at altitude and air travel), most foods, smoke detectors, living in a brick house instead of a wooden one (10mREM/yr), cooking with natural gas (10mREM/yr),reading a book for 3 hours a day (1mREM/yr), even sleeping next to someone (2mREM/yr)!

Dental X-rays are taken regularly to catch dental disease at an early stage, when treatment is easier, cheaper and more effective.

Some patients wait until they get toothache before having an X-ray. By that time it’s usually too late and they are in for expensive root canal treatment and crowning, or extraction.

Not to mention the risks to your general health from oral infection (the subject of a future blog, perhaps?)

It doesn’t make health or economic sense to not have routine x-rays.

Some more figures (prices approximate):

$40 = 2 PBW X-rays, routinely taken yearly

$250 = medium size composite filling in a molar

$2,700 = molar root canal plus crown

$6,000 = extraction and replacement with implant crown

The pain and discomfort isn’t just in the pocket either!

I know what I’d rather do.

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