Issued April 11, 2012 A recent news story referenced a study which suggested a possible link between X-rays and an increased risk of non-cancerous tumors. We wanted to be proactive in providing you with information about First Choice Dental's approach to the use of dental X-rays for the purpose of patient care. These questions and answers are intended to provide you with information you can use to make wise decisions about your health, and to assure you that we care about your safety.
How does First Choice Dental approach the use of dental X-rays with due caution in caring for patients?
We always balance the need for X-rays with patient safety needs, with the ultimate goal being better health for the patient. We carefully consider patient safety together with patient benefit, as with any technology for patient care.
If X-rays come with risks, why have dental X-rays taken at all?
When First Choice Dental care providers take an X-ray, it's because there's a health benefit we can't provide without it. Dental X-rays enable us to diagnose dental health issues that need attention. Left unattended, these dental health issues could cause bigger health problems that far outweigh potential exposure to the relatively low amount of radiation from our digital X-ray technology.
What safety precautions does First Choice Dental take for dental X-rays?
- Currently, for superior patient care and safety, we use digital X-ray technology in nearly all cases and wherever possible, which is better and safer than high-speed film.
- To provide for optimum patient safety, First Choice Dental has all X-ray units tested on a regular basis to ensure that we adhere to industry safety standards.
- We follow American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines for X-rays.
- For additional patient safety and to avoid undue expense and time, we make every effort to utilize existing X-rays when they're current and accurate. For instance, since we share digital files across all our offices and between dental and specialties like orthodontics, we can frequently use an X-ray that's been taken for another purpose and avoid the patient having to have another X-ray taken. This is one of the conveniences and efficiencies of having dental and orthodontics, endodontics and periodontics under one roof.
What is the American Dental Association's response to the news story and the study that was referenced?
In an email sent on April 10, 2012 to ADA Members, the ADA noted that they'd issued a press statement about the study, noting that the findings were based on patient recall of X-rays taken years ago and citing the ADA's long-standing position that dentists should order dental X-rays for patients only when necessary for diagnosis and treatment. Note this quote from the study's lead author in an MSNBC story: "Our take home message is don't panic. Don't stop going to the dentist," said the lead author of the study Dr. Elizabeth Claus, a neurological surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the Yale School of Public Health. In a U.S. News and World Report story, ADA media spokesperson Dr. Matthew Messina states that one of the weaknesses of the study is that people's memories about their X-rays are unclear. "It's difficult to pin this down," he said, especially without dental records. Dr. Messina added that the amount of radiation in dental X-rays has gone down significantly over the years, thanks to factors such as advancements in X-ray technology, faster speed X-ray film and the advent of digital X-rays. The study was also observational in nature, meaning it can show an association but not cause-and-effect.
What should my response be as a patient concerned about my dental and overall health?
First, know that as your dental health care provider, we share your concern for your dental and overall health. Talk with your dentist or hygienist and ask questions in order to get the information you need to weigh the need for an X-ray with any potential risks. Remember, our use of dental X-rays is to provide you with health benefit you could not get otherwise, in the form of accurate and timely diagnosis of dental health issues that need attention. Last, if you have further questions about general information about dental X-rays, we encourage you to visit ADA.org.