Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorA lot of folks avoid the dentist for a lot of reasons — and a new study may add another convenient excuse to avoid the masked (wo)man with the drill.

But there’s more to the study than meets the eyetooth.

The study is in the Journal Cancer, and says people who have routine dental X-rays have more than double the risk of developing a meningioma, the most common type of brain tumor.

The study looked at more than 1,400 patients with meningioma, compared them to a group of almost 1,400 people without brain tumors and found the meningioma patients were more likely to have had routine dental X-rays in the past.

Now, here’s the problems with the study:

1. It was a memory study — as in: “Do you remember having, or not having X-rays a long time ago?” It did not ask how many or how often.

2. A long time ago means the 1960s, when radiation doses in dental X-rays were much higher than today.

3. It didn’t look at any other risk factor or issues.

Overall, it’s a far leap to ask people with brain tumors, “Did you have dental X-rays as a kid?” And then conclude they ARE the cause for the tumor.

Here’s the bottom line: radiation isn’t the best thing to have, but it’s pulling teeth to reach this conclusion by simply asking people what they remembered about going to the dentist. It doesn’t work as a solid research study.

My advice: Don’t have X-rays every time you go to the dentist, except if you’re going once a decade because you are dental-phobic … or if have ongoing dental issues.

The current recommendations for screening X-rays:

Kids: No more than every 1-2 years

Teens: Every 2-3 years max

Grown-ups: Every 3 years

Best advice: relax about the bite-wings. But don’t relax about brushing and flossing. Both habits are good for a healthy mouthful of teeth — and overall health as well.

Good dental info you can sink your teeth into is here: http://www.ada.org/2760.aspx


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