Dental X-rays Linked to Brain Tumors

A traditional dentist’s checkup may give patients more than just clean teeth.

Apr 10, 2012
Sabrina Richards


Dental x-rays may increase one’s risk of developing meningioma, a usually benign type of brain tumor that affects some 7 in 100,000 Americans per year, reported The Huffington Post.

Dental x-rays, traditionally taken on an annual basis to check for cavities, expose patients to ionizing radiation, a known risk factor for meningiomas. The study, published online today (April 10) in Cancer,  examined the correlation between dental x-rays and meningioma in a survey of more than 1,400 people diagnosed with meningioma and 1,350 tumor-free controls. The researchers recorded the age and frequency of bitewing x-rays, which visualize the back teeth, full-mouth series, and panoramic x-rays, which show the whole mouth cavity in one image, and found that meningioma patients were more likely to have had yearly bitewing x-rays, as well as a panoramic x-ray before the age of ten, than healthy controls.

But it’s important to keep risks in perspective, given that innovations in x-ray methods have reduced radiation exposure in modern dental x-rays compared to x-rays performed decades ago, says John B. Ludlow, a professor of oral and maxillofacial radiology at the University of North Carolina who did not participate in the study. ”Most of the cases in the [study] received dental x-ray exposures two or more decades prior to the appearance of a tumor," he stated in an email to Huffington.

Others feel that dentists should be wary of subjecting their patients to  ionizing radiation unless medically necessary. "It's hard to define a threshold because it's very complex frequency and dosing equations go into that," Keith L. Black, chairman and professor in the department of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, told Huffington. "We just need to be more aware of the risk and try to limit the use."