It is estimated that up to 1% of all cancers in the United States can be linked to medical radiation. This means with each x-ray or CT scan the risk increases. A recent study in The Journal of Cancer found a link between dental x-rays and brain tumors called meningiomas. The majority of the tumors are benign but depending upon their location they could cause serious neurological problems.
The average age of the study participants was 57. This means the dental x-rays they received early on were higher in radiation dose. Modern machinery gives off a lower dose. "Four bite wing x-rays are about the same amount of radiation you're exposed to in a typical day: .005 millisieverts," according to the American College of Radiology. A panorex exam also increase the risk. The is the x-ray where the machine moves completely around your head while you stand stationary. It carries about 2x as much radiation as four bite wings. "If study participants had panorex exams when they were younger than 10 years old, their risk of meningioma went up 4.9 times." Again, this speaks to the higher radiation dose from older technology.
Moving to a new city I had to establish with a new dentist. I had a full set of digital x-rays taken and a panorex just last week. I didn't hesitate to do this because my dental health is extremely important to me. I saw another new dentist a couple of years ago and had the same set of pictures taken, again without hesitation. I always make certain to wear the lead shield and make sure my thyroid area is properly covered. Working in this field only increases my exposure to radiation so I must be careful.
One way to tackle this problem is to make a patient's last set of x-rays available to the new treating dentist. With many offices going digital this would seem like a good place to start. Maybe then a whole set of new pictures would not be necessary and the dentist could just x-ray the tooth or teeth causing pain.
With all progress in technology there are downfalls, it just needs to be determined if the benefits outweigh the risks. What is your dental impression?