What’s the Truth About Dental X-Rays & Thyroid Cancer?

What’s the Truth About Dental X-Rays & Thyroid Cancer?
by: Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson

Recent events have raised everyone’s concerns about radiation and the possible link between dental X-rays and thyroid cancer. There’s also been a lot of scary misinformation making the rounds on the Internet. We want to set the record straight and put your mind at ease.

So here’s what the experts have to say on the subject.

Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, says much of the increase in thyroid cancer may be the result of increased medical imaging from CAT scans, MRI scans and thyroid ultrasound that are detecting small nodules that couldn’t be found decades ago.  Dental X-rays, on the other hand, have very little impact when proper procedures are followed.

“Dental X-rays give a very low dose of radiation to the mouth. There is some scatter of radiation and the potential for some radiation absorption by the nearby thyroid and other organs. The American Dental Association notes that  a leaded apron placed over the torso minimizes radiation exposure to the chest and abdomen and should be used when any dental X-ray is taken. The group also notes that a leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation and should be used whenever possible,” Dr. Brawley wrote. He added, “none of the experts was especially worried that dental X-rays are a significant cause of thyroid cancer.” You can read Dr. Brawley’s full article on the American Cancer Society website  or get all the details in the News Alert from the American Dental Association.

The benefits of dental X-rays actually far exceed any risk, according to Dr. Charles Stirewalt of Smile Brands, Inc., the business support services provider for Bright Now, Monarch and Castle Dental. “A full- mouth series of X-rays for a new patient exam give us significant diagnostic information. Not only do X-rays help us diagnose tooth decay, we can screen for life-threatening cancers, as well.  Yet, the radiation dose from a full-mouth series is about what you’d receive working and playing outside for a week. And it’s a very low dose compared to other medical X-rays.” To further reduce exposure, all new dental offices are always outfitted with thyroid protection collars”.

Data from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which regulates medical and dental X-ray sources, support what Dr. Stirewalt and Dr. Brawley say. Radiation, NCR points out, is part of our natural environment. Each of us receives an average annual dose of about 350 millirems (mrems) from natural and man-made sources without suffering any harm. A chart on NCR’s website shows that a single dental X-ray exposes you to 1.5 mrems, compared to 72 mrems for a mammogram and 1,000 mrems for a full-body CAT scan. You can read more about radiation and X-rays here.  

To reduce exposure even more, Smile Brands is currently equipping all Bright Now Dental, Castle Dental and Monarch Dental offices with state-of-the-art digital X-rays that cut the dose of traditional dental X-rays by more than half.

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