Study links dental x-rays, brain tumors
Radiation damages cerebral tissue, teeth, face; findings echo debate surrounding diagnostic tests
Many who await dentist appointments with a feeling of trepidation may do so with good reason. A study published yesterday in American Cancer Society found frequent dental X-rays may be linked to meningioma, an often benign but sometimes harmful brain tumor.
Study participants who remembered having bitewing X-rays before age 10, a procedure used to reveal tooth decay in the upper and lower teeth by determining bone density changes caused by gum disease, were twice as likely to have meningioma, according to the study. They were also nearly five times more likely to say they had received a panorex film, when the X-ray is taken from outside the mouth.
Lead author Dr. Elizabeth Claus and researchers from Yale University compared more than 1,400 adult patients with meningioma to a group of healthy patients.
"We know, not from this study, but from many studies, that radiation is not good for your face, teeth and your brain," Dr. David Langer, director of cerebrovascular research at North Shore University Hospital, told CBS News yesterday.
The negative effects of radiation range from cancer to burns and radiation sickness.
"In the end, these studies are important as a reflection on how to live your life: everything in moderation," Langer said. "If you have pain your teeth and the dentist is concerned you have a cavity, you need an X-ray."
ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor Richard Besser on ABC yesterday questioned the methods of the study, but said the fact remains health care practitioners may rely on diagnostic tests more than necessary.
"The problem is [the study] all came down to memory and not medical records," Besser said. "But the bottom line is we're getting too many tests, too many X-rays"