Dental X-rays could increase the risk of developing a common type of brain tumor, US scientists announced Tuesday.
A study led by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health found that people who received frequent dental X-rays more than doubled their risk of developing meningioma, the most common and potentially debilitating type of noncancerous brain tumor.
A study of 1,433 adults diagnosed with the disease and a control group of 1,350 participants who did not have the tumor found that those with meningioma were 1.4 times to 1.9 times more likely to have had "bitewing" exams, which use X-ray film held in place by a tab between the teeth, on a yearly or more frequent basis.
People who reported getting annual panorex exams -- in which an X-ray is taken outside of the mouth to develop a single image of all of the teeth -- were 2.7 to three times more likely to develop the cancer, depending on their age, the study found.
Professor Elizabeth Claus, who led the study, said that the dental X-rays performed today use a much lower dose of radiation than in the past but noted that the research highlighted the need for increasing awareness regarding the best use of dental X-rays.
Claus added, "The findings suggest that dental X-rays obtained in the past at increased [frequency] and at a young age may be associated with increased risk of developing this common type of brain tumor. This research suggests that although dental X-rays are an important tool in maintaining good oral health, efforts to moderate exposure to this form of imaging may be of benefit to some patients."
The American Dental Association (ADA) said Tuesday that it has long advised dentists that X-rays for patients should take place only when necessary for diagnosis and treatment.
The ADA also suggested that the study results could be flawed, as they relied on individuals' memories of having dental X-rays taken years earlier. It welcomed further research in the interest of patient safety.