A recently published study in the journal Cancer by the American Cancer Society has connected increased risk for brain tumors with dental x-ray use in children. This study has initiated many discussions in the media and alarmed many parents about the use of x-rays in children.
The study interviewed patients who were diagnosed with a kind of brain tumor (intracranial meningioma) at ages 20 to 79 years and asked them to remember how many dental radiographs were taken on them when they were younger than 10 years old. The researcher compared the frequency of dental radiograph exposure of those who have brain tumors with a control group, people who were not diagnosed with brain tumor. The researchers reported an increased risk of brain tumor in individuals who received radiographs on one or more occasions per year, especially those people who had a panoramic examination under 10 years of age.
One major weakness of this study was the requirement for patients to remember their dental x ray history from many decades ago when they were children. This kind of recall studies are known to be highly unreliable because people cannot accurately remember an event from 50 years ago. Also, it is common for people who have been diagnosed with an illness to have bias in reporting an event which they believe may have contributed to their illness. Moreover, current dosages of radiation, especially with digital radiographs, are much less than what they were when the study participants were children over 50 years ago. Considering these factors, it is questionable whether the conclusion of this study can be generalized or applied to current routine patient care. There is no reason to be alarmed when your child is receiving their regular dental assessment. It is important to remember that dental x-rays are a valuable diagnostic tool for dentists to confirm a diagnosis or identify disease in the teeth and surrounding tissues that may not otherwise be visible during a clinical exam.
At the Children’s Oral Care Centre, Dr. Tsang and her dental team are committed to the ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) principle as recommended by the BCDA and many other governing bodies. We use digital x-rays in our clinic in order to minimize the radiation exposure to our patients and all the x-ray equipment is subjected to periodic inspection by the College of Dental Surgeon, BC. We carefully balance the risks and benefits of patients associated with the use of dental x-rays. We always assess the need and the frequency of taking dental x-rays on a child on a case-by-case basis.
If you would like to read more about the guidelines on the use of dental radiograph on children, please visit: