Chances are, if you've been to the dentist recently you've undergone an X-ray.
The tool helps dentists diagnose current problems and plan treatment for existing ones.
But could dental X-rays increase your risk of developing brain tumors? New research suggests that they could...but many dental experts and the American Dental Association (ADA) aren't so sure.
In a new study published in the latest issue of Cancer, researchers report patients exposed to yearly bitewing examinations (a common form of dental X-ray) may be at a greater risk of developing an intracranial meningioma, a common form of brain tumor.
But while the news can be scary at face value, even the researchers caution that their research isn't condemning dental X-rays. Instead, they're advocating for more moderate X-ray exposure.
According to Mansur Ahmad, Ph.D., associate professor of oral medicine and diagnosis within the University of Minnesota's School of Dentistry, the question isn't whether or not radiation causes cancer - we know that it does. The question is which type of cancer radiation can cause.
"Patients shouldn't be scared of dental X-rays, but patients and their doctor can work to cut down on radiation exposure," said Ahmad. "Doctors can also use lead aprons and have strict rules for which patients need X-rays and which do not."
Ahmad recommends dentists look at benefit versus risk when it comes to radiation. X-rays can be useful for some clinical examinations or to help with treatment.
"As dentists we need to ensure we're working with our patients to determine when and why an X-ray may be needed," he said. "We should never be issuing X-rays just because a patient comes in for a visit."