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Dental X-rays in the Land of Oz

In September of last year, an episode on Dr. Oz mentioned a purported connection between dental x-rays and the incidence of thyroid cancer.  It apparently received some high ratings since it aired again in December.  Over the weekend, my wife received an email from a friend warning all of her buddies of the supposed connection, so the episode is making the rounds again.

Here’s some straight talk about the study Dr. Oz cited:  It was done in Kuwait and published in a foreign medical journal, Acta Oncologica.  The 313 Kuwaiti women in the study already had thyroid cancer and self-reported how many x-rays they thought they had received over time—no dentists were ever consulted to find out if the patients were even correct!  This type of study would never pass muster in an American medical journal and should be viewed with a skeptical eye.   

Here’s some straight talk about dental x-rays:  Dentists are very concerned about your total exposure to radiation—this is why we tailor how often we take them with consideration to your age, amount of existing dentistry in your mouth, and if you have had other exposure to manmade radiation within a certain period of time.  You probably won’t find a dental office that doesn’t use a thyroid collar, since most of them aren’t even detachable, so coverage of the thyroid area is a given.

Dentistry is the 5th most trusted occupation—the reason is we’re very altruistic, and we don’t lie!  You can believe us when we tell you that a full-mouth series of 18 films is the radiation equivalent to about three hours out in the sun, and we only take these about every 5 years!  The more routine series of 4 bitewing films are that much less.  The following link provides the ADA’s recommended guidelines—where dentists hang their hat—for taking x-rays:               http://www.ada.org/sections/professionalResources/pdfs/topics_radiography_chart.pdf

Dr. Oz is a respected physician and shares a lot of useful information with his audience, and he does a great job of breaking down difficult concepts into layman’s terms, making it easy to digest.  He also has to fill a 1-hour show, 5 days a week.  I suspect that, even with a large staff to research topics and help put a show together, he has fallen short on other topics as well.  Rest assured, your dentist only has your best interests at heart—if you’ve ever had an abscessed tooth, you already know it is better to catch dental problems early!   


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