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Dr. OZ and Dental X-Ray Safety

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Dr OZ and Dental X-Ray Safety“Good Morning, Susie!” my hygienist said recently to a patient. “Today along with your cleaning, I will be taking your screening radiographs for Dr Price to review.” “But – didnʼt you just take x-rays? Do I need them again already? And besides, Dr Oz says dental xrays and mammograms cause thyroid cancer!” Does these questions sound familiar to you?

Many people are confused and unnecessarily worried about the risks and benefits of dental x-rays. I find that information can go a long way to erasing fear, so here is the latest out there on the topic!

Radiographs, or x-rays as they are more commonly known, are the only way the dentist can properly evaluate the status of your teeth and associated bony structures. Literally only 25% of the tooth is visible to the naked eye. The adjacent photo shows a tooth that looks perfectly fine and yet the x-ray reveals it has a deep cavity that caused an infection in the bone known as an abscess.

Given that so much can go wrong with out regular evaluation, the risk of a person developing a serious dental condition far outweighs the small risk of radiation.

The Dr Oz show seems to equate the increase of thyroid cancer in women with dental x-rays as well as mammograms, even though he did state in the beginning that the more likely reason for this increase is “attributed to improved and more precise technology…”Somehow that message got lost when he went on to say that ..”the increase in thyroid cancer also began to rise just as x-ray radiation was being routinely used to diagnose and treat disease. This was a time when x-rays were not only stronger, but also used indiscriminately for some unworthy conditions such as acne and tonsillitis.”

This is actually the reverse of what has been happening in dental offices for years! Dental x-rays are DECREASING in radiation strength, not increasing. From the advent of Collimation over 30 years ago – a lead shield in the x-ray tube to alleviate “scatter” – to the increased use of digital x-rays, the overall dosage has has decreased by approximately 80%! Not only that, we are not aiming the x-ray beam at your thyroid gland.

Dr OZ and Dental X-Ray SafetyDental x-rays today are used judiciously by most practitioners, and are necessary at regular intervals to detect and diagnose disease at itʼs earliest stage.Dental x-rays have one of the lowest radiation doses. A routine exam which includes 4 bite wings is about 0.005 mSv, which is less than one day of natural background radiation. It is also about the same amount of radiation exposure from a short airplane flight (~1-2 hrs). The Proper shielding with the use of the lead vest and thyroid collar make the risk even lower.

Our friend Dr Oz has gained a real following raising peopleʼs awareness on various health topics. However, the recently aired show in which he equated the increase of thyroid cancer in women with dental x-rays as well as mammograms not only defies logic – the thyroid gland lives BETWEEN the jaw and the breasts! – it goes against the current studies on the topic.

Recently Dr Oz aired a show in which he equated the increase of thyroid cancer in women with dental x-rays as well as mammograms. This has caused some unnecessary concern for his viewers out there. When I went to his website to read the copy from the show, I was surprised to learn that in the beginning, he did state the more likely reason for this increase in thyroid cancer – …”the increase is attributed to improved and more precise diagnostic technology, like imaging and biopsy techniques, because the increase incidence was primarily from hard to detect, tiny tumors.” said Dr Otis Brawley, chief medical office of the American Cancer Society, he went on to overemphasize risks for two necessary radiographic tests that everyone benefits from routinely.

He then goes on to say that “the increase in thyroid cancer also began to rise just as Xray radiation was being routinely used to diagnose and treat disease. This was a time when X-rays were not only stronger, but also used indiscriminately for some unworthy conditions such as acne and tonsillitis.”

This statement is actually the reverse of what has been happening in dental offices for years! Dental x-rays are DECREASING in radiation, not increasing. From the advent of Collimation – a lead shield in the x-ray tube to alleviate “scatter” – to the increased use of digital x-rays, the overall dosage has decreased by approximately 80%! Not only that, radiation has not been used for acne since the early 1900s. There is an excellent study that was done in Sweden that found there was no connection between dental x-rays and thyroid cancer.

The study was actually done before the use of digital x-rays was prevalent Dental x-rays today are used judiciously by most practitioners, and are necessary at regular intervals to detect and diagnose disease at itʼs earliest stage .Dental x-rays have one of the lowest radiation doses. A routine exam which includes 4 bite wings is about 0.005 mSv, which is less than one day of natural background radiation. It is also about the same amount of radiation exposure from a short airplane flight(~1-2 hrs). The Proper shielding with the use of the lead vest and thyroid collar make the risk even lower.

There is no substitute for having a great doctor whom you trust to help guide you in these areas. Most practitioners welcome questions from patients, as we always do, and unlike the Hollywood doctors, have your best interest at heart rather than the goal being to sensationalize a very important health matter.

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