Dental X-rays and the Risk of Thyroid Cancer

19040337_sHaving worked in the dental field for over 30 years, I have seen many standards and protocols change as scientific research brings to light new information and technology.  Traditional reasons and methods of doing things need to be challenged in the light of this new-found knowledge and I believe that as a health care professional we must be totally open to this if we claim to truly care about the entire health and well-being of our clients.

In a recent study by Dr. Anjum Memon and his team from Brighton, Cambridge and Kuwait, published in the medical journal Acta Oncologica and cited in a Medical News Today article.  The team have demonstrated that thyroid cancer increases as the number of dental x-rays grows.  The researchers report that the incidence rates of thyroid cancer have doubled from 1.4 per 100,000 in 1975 to 2.9 per 100,000 in 2006 in the UK.

In the study’s abstract it was noted that Ionising radiation is the only established cause of thyroid cancer and that dental x-rays, a common source of low-dose diagnostic radiation exposure in the general population is often overlooked as a radiation hazard to the gland and may be associated with the risk of thyroid cancer.

The scientists studied 313 patients in Kuwait who all had thyroid cancer where the incidence of thyroid cancer is very high, and interestingly, dental treatment is free.

Dr. Memon said the findings were compatible with earlier reports of raised risk of thyroid cancer in dentist s, dental assistants and x-ray workers, suggesting the multiple low-dose exposures in adults may be significant.  He also said that dental x-rays have also been linked to an increased risk of brain and salivary gland tumors.

Dr Memon wrote:

The public health and clinical implications of these findings are particularly relevant in the light of increases in the incidence of thyroid cancer in many countries over the past 30 years.

It is important that our study is repeated with information from dental records including frequency of x-rays, age and dose at exposure. If the results are confirmed then the use of x-rays as a necessary part of evaluation for new patients, and routine periodic dental radiography (at 6-12 months interval), particularly for children and adolescents, will need to be reconsidered, as will a greater use of lead collar protection.

Our study highlights the concern that like chest (or other upper-body) x-rays, dental x-rays should be prescribed when the patient has a specific clinical need, and not as part of routine check-up or when registering with a dentist.

(conclusion) The notion that low-dose radiation exposure through dental radiography is absolutely safe needs to be investigated further, as although the individual risk, particularly with modern equipment is likely to be very low, the proportion of the population exposed is high.

So…..  How often should x-rays be taken?  There are many variables; included in this would be whether the x-rays are digital or not and that is why further research needs to be done as Dr Memon has pointed out.  But please, have this discussion with your dental professional in light of this new research.

In the meantime, I would love to get your feedback. Here on my blog, you will get commentluv. That’s a plugin that allows you to leave a link back to your own site when you leave a comment!

Until next time,


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