In July 2020, we posted a blog explaining that there is no such thing as a “routine” dental x-ray. As it turns out, one recent study concluded that many dental providers are, in fact,overprescribing x-rays. What’s worse, an alarming percentage of X-ray examinations are generated by non-clinically related motives.
Given the ongoing discussions about safety and efficacy of teleorthodontics and whether there is a need for the review of the use of radiographs in providing orthodontic care, the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology just published an article titled, Estimation of X-ray Radiation Related Cancers in U.S. Dental Offices: Is it worth the risk? Drs. Benn and Vig’s conclusions validated the ATDA’s warning from last summer about the unnecessary and harmful overuse of x-rays in orthodontic treatment.
In fact, some of the most alarming findings highlighted in the study were the degrees to which the use of x-rays has become routine:• 82% of hygienists reported that there were times when dentists did not perform clinical examinations before prescribing radiographs• One third of hygienists reported that radiography intervals were based on patient’s insurance reimbursement.• Financial incentives have a substantial impact on a dentist’s decision to conduct dental X-raying.
Couple the findings above with the study’s findings below:• USA 2019 Dental X-ray examinations estimated to cause 967 cancers.• In 2020 – 2021 dental x-rays in all orthodontic courses of treatment may possibly generate 135 cancers. This is probably an underestimate.• Dentists and patients are unaware of magnitude of radiographic cancer risks.
If dentists and orthodontists were to follow ADA and other recommended guidelines in practice, then they “may possibly reduce the cancers” caused by dental radiography by over 75%.These conclusions should serve as a reminder to all providers of the well-established guidance on the use of x-rays – in short, less is more.