Orthodontics Blog - Dr. Albert Fontaine

The Truth About the X-ray/Tumor Connection

DUNEDIN AND SPRING HILL, FLORIDA – Dental X-rays and tumors were front and center in the national news recently when results of a study stated that there was a potential connection between dental X-rays and the risk of meningioma.

We armed ourselves with information at our Dunedin and Spring Hills offices, fully anticipating a flood of worried parents wanting their concerns addressed. Although that didn’t happen, Dr. Albert Fontaine still feels it is important to address this study and to share information on the safety and importance of dental X-rays in developing the best ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT plan for each patient.

First, some information about the study: it was published on April 10 in the journal “Cancer,” which is published by the American Cancer Society. NBC News Chief Medical Editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, did a segment about the study on the Today Show shortly thereafter.

“My first reaction was that I felt like the whole truth wasn’t being stated,” says Dr. Fontaine, a DUNEDIN INVISALIGN provider. “I felt like the information leading into the story was sensationalistic, and the actual article didn’t jibe with the headlines.”

The study’s lead author was Dr. Elizabeth Claus, of Yale University School of Medicine, and it involved 1,433 patients diagnosed with meningioma. It compared those patients to 1,350 people without this type of tumor, and found that the meningioma group was twice as likely to report “ever having had a bitewing exam, which uses an X-ray film held in place by a tab between the teeth,” according to an ACS article.

X-rays are a source of ionizing radiation, which is a possible risk factor for meningioma.

A major flaw in the study lies in how the information was gathered from the meningioma patients, Dr. Fontaine says. This was a self-reported study, meaning the patients simply were asked to recall the number and type of X-rays they’ve had over the years. Those who conducted the study examined no medical records.

Many professional dental organizations who’ve spoken against the study bring up the concept of “recall bias,” where people simply misremember by overstating or understating the number of dental X-rays they’ve had over the years.

“The trouble doesn’t end there,” says Fontaine, a DUNEDIN CROOKED TEETH fixer. Many of the people who participated in the study had X-rays taken prior to digital X-ray technology, which exposes patients to significantly lower radiation levels.

Shedding Light on Problems
Dr. Fontaine anticipated lots of moms asking about the necessity of taking an X-ray.

“Obviously we have to have X-rays to diagnose what’s going on with our patients,” says the DUNEDIN GAP TEETH remover. “We can’t provide proper treatment without them. But it’s important for patients and parents to note that we don’t do any unnecessary X-rays.”

About a week after news of the study broke, Dr. Fontaine was presented with the perfect example of why and how these X-rays are so important to treatment.

“I had a young man who I took a panoramic X-ray on and I found a cyst in his mandible,” Dr. Fontaine recalls, who is a DUNEDIN UNDERBITE CORRECTION professional. “It was so large, it almost fractured the mandible.”

Prior to the X-ray, the patient had experienced no pain and there were no symptoms that anything was amiss.

“That happens,” Dr. Fontaine says. “It may be only one in a thousand cases, but you wouldn’t want your child to be that one.”

Particularly when treating patients who are growing, X-rays may be required throughout treatment to ensure treatment remains on course.

“We don’t overtake X-rays by any means,” he says. “As infrequent as they are, we don’t want potential patients to be deterred from dental X-rays because of one flawed study.”

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