Can a Trip to the Dentist Put You at Risk for a Brain Tumor?

Research suggests that frequent dental x-rays can heighten your risk of developing a brain tumor.

In the largest study of its kind, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers, along with researchers from Yale University School of Medicine, Duke University, University of California, San Francisco, and Baylor College of Medicine, have found an association between past frequent dental x-rays and an increased risk of meningioma, which accounts for 33 percent of all primary brain tumors.

According to the study, patients with meningioma were twice as likely to report having a specific type of dental x-ray called a bitewing exam. Those who reported having them yearly or more frequently were 1.4 to 1.9 times as likely to develop a meningioma.

There was an even greater increased risk of meningioma in patients who reported having a panorex x-ray exam. Those who reported having this exam under the age of 10 were 4.9 times more likely to develop a meningioma. Those who reported having the exam yearly or more frequently than once a year were nearly three times as likely to develop meningioma.

Dental x-rays performed today use a much lower dose of radiation than those performed in the past, particularly if digital images are obtained.

“The message here is that although dental x-rays are an important part of maintaining good oral health, patients should discuss the rationale for any medical imaging they undergo, including dental x-rays,” says Dr. Elizabeth B. Claus, BWH neurosurgeon and senior study author.

Dr. Claus notes that the American Dental Association’s statement on the use of dental radiographs emphasizes the need for dentists to examine the risks and benefits of dental x-rays and confirms that there is little evidence to support the use of dental x-rays in healthy patients at preset intervals.


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