Study links dental X-rays to brain tumors

(Photo courtesy PXG via Flickr)

Before you get those annual dental X-rays, ask if they're absolutely necessary. A new study suggests getting frequent x-rays may expose you to unnecessary risk to brain tumors.

Dentists are now learning about a new report in the American Cancer Society journal Cancer that links dental X-rays to brain tumors called meningioma. They are often benign tumors but can still be debilitating.

Meningiomas are tumors that grow in the lining of the brain and have a lag time of 20 - 25 years. They're most commonly found in people 40 - 70 years old and mostly women.

“Of course it would scare any dentist because you worry about it,” says dentist Dr. Alex Naini. “But digital X-rays are 90% less radiation than traditional film.”

Digital technology decreases significantly the amount of radiation patients are exposed to. But According to the report, some of the x-rays can still be particularly dangerous because many dentists are still using old film technology.

Researchers and dentists still advise dental x-rays, just not as often. They should be used for dental infections or severe situations.

The American Dental Association recommends that children wait up to two years between X-rays if they have no problems and are cavity-free. And, similarly, adults should wait up to three years between X-rays.