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The Dental X-Ray Dilemma

The recent article in the Georgia Straight, “Studies Link Dental X-rays to Brain Tumours, Thyroid Cancer, and Low Birth Weight”,published on August 16, 2013, discusses the medical dangers from the indiscriminate use of dental x-rays, and is alarming to patients, parents, dentists and dental professionals alike. Beginning with the picture of a skull on the front page with the title, “Dental Dilemma”, the article depicts dentists making adults and children terminally ill by giving x-rays indiscriminately to everyone possible, but it is the children they prey upon the most. In addition to this horrible assertion, it comes with the presumption that the dentists who buy x-rays machines are ignorant about the amount and effect of radiation given, because the dental supply companies push this “new” technology on naive practitioners.

Here at Dentistry-On-Bellevue in West Vancouver, Dr. Shainbom follows the British Columbia Dental Association’s (BCDA) guidelines about taking patient x-rays, because these protocols equate the highest patient care. Dr. Shainbom does not take x-rays without the patient’s full and informed consent, and even then, they are taken only when warranted by symptoms, or in the case of new patient exams where no x-rays exist in the patient’s record. X-rays with children are taken only when symptoms require a concise and accurate view of the child’s bone, tooth and root structures and the presence of abscesses which can cause not only tremendous pain, but other systemic infections if left untreated. In all cases, whenever any patient receives an x-ray, our certified dental assistants and hygienists follow all protective procedures to minimize the patient’s radiation exposure. Dentists must be as informed as any dental supply company regarding all equipment. While it is true that dental technology has rapidly evolved over the last two decades, x-rays are one area in which there has been much improvement. Now digital x-rays, used by Dr. Shainbom, produce less radiation than regular film x-rays, and scan the person’s mouth for a tiny fraction of the time required by the older x-ray film process.

This article airs an important debate, but patients must be fully informed about the positive use of dental x-rays, when prescribed and administered with the patient’s interest as the dentist’s primary concern.