Health

Can visiting the dentist give you cancer?

Listen, no one likes to go to the dentist. But while an appointment might feel like it takes forever, it turns out that visiting the dentist can actually take years off your life.

A little dentist mirror in an open mouth

Masterfile

Listen, no one likes to go to the dentist. But while an appointment might feel like it takes forever, it turns out that visiting the dentist can actually take years off your life. A recent study reported by Andrew M. Seaman over at Reuters suggests that dental x-rays increase the risk of brain tumours.

Yale School of Medicine researchers found that dental x-rays are the most common source of exposure to ionizing radiation, which has been linked to meningioma (the most common form of brain tumour) in the past. The study looked at how often people had three types of dental x-rays: bitewing (a focused image of one area), full-mouth (a number of images of the full mouth) and panorex films (a single panoramic view of the entire mouth).

“The researchers found that those diagnosed with meningiomas were more than twice as likely as the comparison group to report ever having had bitewing images taken,” writes Seaman. “And regardless of the age when the bitewings were taken, those who had them yearly or more frequently were at between 40 percent and 90 percent higher risk at all ages to be diagnosed with a brain tumor.”

It’s worth noting that these results are based on past exposure, when dental x-rays had higher levels of radiation, but the study still raises concerns about just how much exposure is safe. Health Canada recommends limiting exposure to any and all radiation – something that has raised controversy regarding the new, full-body airport scanners – and so it’s worthwhile to be wary whenever anyone wants to take an x-ray, and perhaps query if there’s an alternate diagnostic tool.