US sparks scare over dental X-ray

Frequent dental X-rays may significantly increase the risk of non-malignant brain tumours.

Over a lifetime, having dental X-rays can double or triple the chances of developing meningioma tumours, a study has found. The tumours grow in the outer membrane covering the brain.

In one case, involving X-rays on children, a five-fold increase in risk was identified.

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Meningiomas, which account for about one in five primary brain tumours, affect two or three in every 100,000 people in the UK each year. Scientists in the US looked at the self- reported dental histories of 1,433 patients diagnosed with meningioma tumours

Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, said: “Regulations governing the use of X-rays in the UK are considerably more stringent than in the US. This means that fewer X-rays are taken and modern equipment has reduced exposure to radiation to extremely low levels.

“Dentists are also required to undertake regular training in the use of X-rays to ensure they are up to date with the latest techniques in deciding how, and when, these are required. This maximises safety for patients, while retaining an essential tool in the diagnosis of disease.”