An in-depth article headlined “Radiation Worries Rise With 3-D Dental Images” was featured on the front page of the New York Times on November 23. I thought the article was well researched and largely correct. The authors maintain that most dentists are still using outmoded and slower D-speed x-ray film that requires higher levels of radiation than the faster E or F-speed xray film. The authors also question the safety of the cone-beam CT scanner which provides 3-D images of teeth, roots, and jaw bone and is used increasingly by orthodontists and other dental specialists. Information and misinformation about the efficacy and safety of the cone beam comes from dentists who are sponsored by manufacturers to give lectures to other dentists at continuing education classes.
It is time for the dental profession to clean up its act. The public needs to trust that we dentists are receiving information from reliable, unbiased sources and that we are weighing the safety and efficacy of new devices that reach the dental marketplace with increased frequency.
Yes, cone-beam CT scans are very helpful in diagnosing and treating complex cases. They are the standard of care for implant placement. But is it necessary for orthodontists to use cone-beam CT scans to screen all patients? Does the benefit justify the increased risk? Is the Cone Beam safe? Is it effective? The manufacturers use aggressive marketing techniques and it is difficult for dentists to find independent information.
In my dental office I take digital xrays which produce even less radiation than the conventional E or F-speed xray film. I take only necessary xrays with the least amount of radiation exposure. We keep careful records when we take xrays – and send for any xrays taken at a prior dental office so we don’t have to retake any xrays. We give the patient a lead apron with thyroid cover before taking xrays. Our xray machine is new and inspected regularly to be sure it is working properly and at the correct settings. We are concerned for your safety!