Doctor's Note

I was just actually at the dentist for my check-up and was again offered a set of full mouth X-rays (because I was "due"). Normally when I refuse routine dental X-rays I've just explained that I try to minimize my radiation exposure, but this time I was able to refuse "as per the official recommendation of the American Dental Association"! I just got a blank stare.More on avoiding brain tumors in: This is the third in a five part series on preventing and mediating the adverse effects of radiation exposure. The first, Fukushima and Radioactivity in Seafood, described the natural and artificial sources of radioactive isotopes in our diet. The last video, Cancer Risk from CT Scan Radiation, detailed the estimated 29,000 cancers that doctors cause with CAT scans every year. In my next video, Mediating Radiation Exposure from Air Travel, I talk about those full-body scanners in airports and I'll close out with ways to mediate all these risks with Reducing Radiation Damage With Ginger And Lemon Balm.For more context, check out my associated blogs: Are Dental X-Rays Safe?, Fukushima Radiation and Seafood, and Dealing with Air Travel Radiation Exposure.If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.
  • Cory

    I was just at the dentist for a routine cleaning about a week ago and they requested several x rays from me. I’ve had several x rays a few years back and I was concerned about the all the radiation. When I declined, his entire staff looked at me as if I was some kind’ve eccentric nut. Thanks for posting this!

    • b00mer

      Maybe bring some copies of those articles to give to them at your next checkup!

  • Hillary Rettig

    crap. a friend just got operated on for this kind of a cancer a few months ago. (with a good outcome, we think.) he’s super health conscious and *exactly* the type to be meticulous in getting all the recommended tooth xrays.

  • Psych MD

    Last time I went to the dentist I told the tech I was declining x-rays. Minutes later the dentist walks in and asks why. I told her I wanted to limit radiation exposure as much as possible. She gave a condescending chuckle (I am a physician) and said, “The amount of radiation is very low. Much less than an MRI.”

    • Liselle

      I’ve encountered my fair share of condescending chuckles! The pat answer I so often hear is, “you get more radiation from the sun”. But, my fave has to be (notoriously phrased in question form), “do you fly in airplanes?” You mean, as opposed to using my wings, or teleportation? ;)

      • Analisa

        Tell your dentist that Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at UC Berkeley & the discover of uranium-232 and 233, warned that the risk of cancer goes up with the amount of radiation. And the largest source of radiation for us as people is medical radiation. Yes, we get radiation from the sun, background radiation and the like, but that’s not as hazardous as the ionizing radiation that comes from xrays. So if your dentist tries to pat you on the head, come preprared with the facts, and you can pat right back on his ignorant crown.

        • Thea

          This is a great wording. This makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for taking the time to write this out.

        • Ryan

          I wish I would have been this prepared at my dentist appointment this morning! When I stated that I was concerned about my brain being exposed to the radiation after they recommended an x-ray, they also chuckled claiming that people receive more radiation from the sun…

          • jazzfeed

            Same EXACT response from my dentist and his assistants, as if they’re all programmed by the same source (ADA?), along with spiel about how beneficial and benign flouride is. This harmful ignorance is but one example of the massive sickness in the sick care system – the allopathic conveyer belt keeps moving, with massive inertia.

    • b00mer

      Pick up a basic toxicology text (I bet you could find one on amazon for a penny) and bookmark the section for her where carcinogens are defined as having no threshold. You need a single molecule (whether it’s a radical or some other form of carcinogen) to damage a single DNA molecule within a single cell, and if that single DNA molecule is replicated, you have the opportunity for cancerous growth.

      Obviously, we are surrounded by carcinogenic compounds and radiation that are just a product of our natural world, and our body has defense mechanisms to keep things in check. But why expose yourself to any more than is necessary? Like the other dentist comment below “you get more from the sun” …and why would I want to add any radiation on top of that?! Just because radiation is unavoidable, that doesn’t make it harmless and it doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to get more than you have to!

  • Gregg Stern

    Per your source: “Exposure to some dental x-rays performed in the past, when radiation exposure was greater than in the current era”, did your research indicate that current levels of exposure also put us at risk? If so, which articles showed that. I would like to be well prepared when addressing this with my dentist (as he is my uncle).

  • Joe

    Like most truisms, how can this connection not make sense?
    My question has always been when they are x-raying your mouth, what insures the x-ray stops at the target instead of continuing to travel through your head into your brain? I think we all know the answer. Nothing stands btween the two!

    • Mairead

      The fact that the machine isn’t pointed at your brain makes a difference.

    • Nina

      Is there any connection with amalgam fillings scattering the radiation? I have a large filling in a lower molar, which to my thinking could potentially scatter a lot of those rays directly up at my brain.

  • li

    Thank you I will use your words next time and tell others when offered check-up x-rays.

  • BPCveg

    Good thought-provoking video, Dr. Greger. There is no doubt that we should all avoid unnecessary exposure to x-rays.

    To put this safety concern in perspective, however, please note that the equivalent dose from each dental radiograph compares favourably to other radiation sources such as cosmic ray dose during a coast-to-coast round trip flight, house-hold radon gas dose and even doses from food sources such as Brazil nuts. For example, see the table provided on the Public Health England website:

    http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/Radiation/UnderstandingRadiation/UnderstandingRadiationTopics/DoseComparisonsForIonisingRadiation/

    Furthermore, according to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s website:

    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/bio-effects-radiation.html

    “About half of the total annual average U.S. individual’s radiation exposure comes from natural sources. The other half is mostly from diagnostic medical procedures. The average annual radiation exposure from natural sources is about 310 millirem (3.1 millisieverts or mSv). Radon and thoron gases account for two-thirds of this exposure, while cosmic, terrestrial, and internal radiation account for the remainder. No adverse health effects have been discerned from doses arising from these levels of natural radiation exposure.”

    • Veganrunner

      You’re back! Thank goodness!!!

      • BPCveg

        Thanks, Veganrunner! It’s good to be back.

  • FanoftheConstitution

    Dr. Greger, the video is missing a crucial piece of information – are you referring to standard x-rays or digital. which purportedly use 90% less radiation than standard machines?

    • jdog

      I also wonder if the risk goes up based on the number of dental x-rays you’ve had. I’m in my 30s now and worry about the panoramic x-rays I had in my teens when I got braces. The dentist claimed I wasn’t sitting still (though, I swore the machine was shaking) and re-did the x-ray several times. I also get the bite-wing x-rays, but try to put them off to about every 3 years instead of the 1.5 – 2 that my dentist recommends. Maybe I will avoid them altogether now that I’ve seem this video. Though, my dentist also claims the “digital” x-rays use less radiation.

      • Cory

        “Though, my dentist also claims the “digital” x-rays use less radiation”

        He was probably told that from the guy who sold him the machine.

    • Darryl

      The dose reduction for digital is dependent on the short exposure capabilities of the x-ray machine and what kind of film the digital sensor is replacing: Health Physics Society: Dental Patient Issues

      A typical skin exposure for Group D film (ultraspeed) is about 300 mR, for Group E (Ektaspeed) about 150 mR, and for Group F (Insight) about 110-120 mR. One digital-imaging manufacturer recommends setting the exposure for its equipment at about 20% of D-speed film, or about 60 mR. Some institutions have found that approximately a 50% decrease from F-speed film provides a good image.

      It is possible that digital imaging may require as much exposure as film if the user does not consciously reset the x-ray machine to lower exposure or if the x-ray machine timer cannot accommodate the short exposure times (usually an old machine, not the current models). With respect to digital panoramic radiographs, there appears to be no dose reduction compared with film-based panoramic images because there is already a large dose reduction as a result of use of intensifying screens in the panoramic cassettes.

      So digital seems to offer about a 50% dose reduction from the fastest film. If only film is available, ask for F speed film.

  • Patty Jacobson

    My hygenist kept wanting to X-ray my mouth as she “couldn’t quite get the picture right.” After 3 or 4 tries, I said “That’s enough!” She became very defensive and said that there was absolutely “no problem” and that it was digital. I felt as though she truly felt I was an extremist.

    • JohnC

      The exact thing happened to me too! I was so upset, I never went back. Of course my new dentist is giving me the take x-rays or find a new dentist ultamatum.

      • jazzfeed

        Anything this aggressively insistent comes from above. Look at the “smart” meter issue – same thing.

  • KT

    Do we need dental insurance reform? I’ve had before and after x-rays because dentists say it’s needed to prove the work was done.

  • DvoraChesed

    I’ve been refusing dental x-rays for years, especially when the young, inexperienced (usually dumb) ‘technician’ has to do them over. . .and over . . . and OVER because she doesn’t know how to position the beam correctly. When the dentist says look we “have” to do a full set, I know, and he knows, it’s really only because of the higher insurance reimbursement he gets. Forget it, I say please, just do this tooth and that tooth and the remainder by visual inspection. Dentists, like doctors, work for us — not vice versa.

  • June Siegel

    Dr. Greger, would you recommend that children also not get dental x-rays? I wish we had been declining them all these years. My son has never had a cavity, so I’m not really sure what the point was.

    • dentalhygienist

      I am a hygienist in a general practice. In one instance, we had a young patient with no clinically visible dental caries. We sent that child to a pedodontist as we were unable to take successful bitewing radiographs. The radiographs that ended up being taken at the pedo office revealed several cavities between the posterior teeth that were not visible clinically. I agree that need for radiographs should be determined on an individual basis. There are many carious lesions that cannot be detected clinically.
      What does one say to the patient who finally has agreed to radiographs that show a large carious lesion between the teeth, or even an abscessed tooth, when they exclaim “Well how long has that been there?”
      I am a regular reader of NutritionFacts.org and agree with much of what is posted, however this is a reply from the hygienist’s point of view. I have been a dental hygienist for almost 30 years.

  • Swifty

    As with any proposed health intervention (or most actions in life,
    really) I reckon its prudent to assess the risk/benefit ratio.

    It
    is true that dental decay will sometimes occur in areas where it can’t
    be detected without X-rays, and that if allowed to progress will result
    in the need for root therapy or loss of the tooth.

    It is also true, I think, that most people would consider the loss of
    a tooth a less serious outcome than a brain tumour. Even so, losing a
    number of teeth can have a significant negative impact on a person’s
    overall health.

    It
    is also true that the radiation from digital dental X-rays is
    relatively small. (This is easily measurable and in Australia dentists
    will not be licensed to use equipment unless the radiation output is
    regularly tested independently – it’s not just what the X-ray machine
    salesman says!)

    I believe it also would be true that there would
    be other lifestyle factors besides dental X-rays that would contribute
    to one’s risk of brain tumour.

    A person’s individual risk that
    dental decay would be present would also be determined by things like
    diet and flossing skill & diligence.

    So, all these things need to be considered, but in the end an individual’s informed decision should be respected.

    I
    work with my husband who is a dentist, and his recommendations for
    X-rays do vary with his knowledge of a patient’s previous decay history,
    their dental hygiene and what he can ascertain of their diet (ie the
    likelihood of decay being present).

    If a patient declines
    X-rays, he does explain that there may be decay present that he can’t
    see, and he does point out that dental X-rays represent a very small
    percentage of the average person’s total radiation exposure, but then
    respects their informed decision as being their own choice for their own
    body – there are no condescending chuckles. We are the patient’s
    partners in their oral healthcare. (We also have a range of materials by
    Drs Fuhrman, Esselstyn, and Barnard as well as Forks Over Knives in our
    reception area.)

    There have been many instances where we have
    been able to save teeth with minimal restorative work because X-rays
    were taken. Likewise, there have been many instances when we have taken
    X-rays and not found any decay, so, in hindsight, they weren’t
    necessary. (That darned hindsight that makes decisions so easy – if only
    we had it beforehand!)

    We’re always grateful for the info and discussion on this site as we continue to educate ourselves :)

  • Carol J.

    I’ve been treated as an eccentric nut and a problem patient after refusing annual mammograms (after more than 20 years of them) — treated with such condescension and having technicians calling me at home to remind me of the “need” for them because someone above them told them they had to call me (some of techs sound like they’d rather be digging out a sewer than making that call.) At the dentist, they get very adamant about x-rays, too. You have to be tough, stick to your guns, and be your own health advocate.

  • elsie blanche

    Dr. Greger, how about a video on cavity causing foods…..and things we can do to prevent the “need” for dental x-rays in the first place. There are vegan foods (certain grains and unripe-pineapple) that cause me intense tooth pain, so it has been relatively easy for me to abstain from foods that seem to be compromising the integrity of my teeth. Interestingly, if I eat sprouted bread instead of non-sprouted I don’t experience tooth pain. Experience has led me to believe that it isn’t an issue of vegan vs. meat, dairy, egg in causing cavities/tooth problems, but maybe meat, dairy, egg harm the teeth in their own ways?

    • Chocolate Toothpaste

      Look into Theobromine from Chocolate (Cacao plant) for Cavity prevention and then try Raw Cacao Beans. “Theodent” brand toothpaste is also recommended to try. Good luck.

  • Tumeria

    I’d would love to have a copy of the official recommendations of the ADA to bring with me on my next dental visit in July. Where can I get this? I tried your links but could only get the abstract which didn’t include the recommendations.

  • Coacervate

    This brings up a related topic. A lot of people say irradiated food is safe. The more I hear it the less I believe it. Look at his blurb from NCSU: What Happens When a Food is Irradiated?

    When ionizing radiation passes through a food

    product, some energy is absorbed by some chemical

    bonds. Some bonds rupture and produce free radicals

    which are highly reactive and unstable. They

    instantaneously rejoin with neighboring compounds

    and the results are called radiolytic compounds.

    end of snip.

    I’ve learned here that free radicals are bad. Really bad. But it seems the Machine says the free radicals caused by ionizing radiation are safe. And chock full of natural antioxidants I bet too.

  • Ron

    The late phd dr John garthman , an expert on ex-rays said there is no such such thing as a safe ex-ray and if a doctor says they are safe he is either lying or incompetent . One ex-ray is known to be a carcinogen …..One of my doctors told me it,s no more harm then the radiation you get when you fly across the country but dr garthman said that,s not how ex-rays work they go right thru the body .The late Dr Garthmann was a professor at UC at Irvine and was considered America,s foremost expert on ex-rays.

  • beccadoggie10

    My husband claims that I am being paranoid, but I call it informed. The dentists and physicians alike the various industries who are poisoning us for their profit claim that there is more radiation skiing in the Rockies, flying in an airplane than there is from full body scanners and full mouth scans.

    But, I already have background radiation as a result of living in the Rockies for over 20 years, flying in airplanes, and I don’t need more so that dentists or physicians can be protected from potential law suits.

    I had a full body CT scan when I fractured my spine as well as an X-Ray. The second time, I chose not to go to the doctor. Hence, no scan. Instead, I wore my brace, and am gradually getting stronger so I can do weight bearing exercise.

    The dentist and periodontist go away with one full mouth scan, but no more. I’m not falling for that prevention routine again. They are protecting themselves, not my health!

    I will copy the study and give them a copy when I go to the periodontist next week.
    Thank you, Dr. Greger.

    I wonder if that was the reason my father died on a brain tumor the size of an ostrich egg on his brain in 1956. We suspected it was because of government secrecy.

  • weishen83

    I am slightly skeptical. How about increased mobile/cell phone use? That’s much longer exposure compare to occasional dental x-rays

    • Coacervate

      The important difference is the wavelength. Ultrashort length x-rays pack such a strong punch it causes chemical bonds to break. Phones emit low energy microwaves that make molecules bounce around. I grant you, boiling your brain with microwaves is not too smart either. But the two types of radiation are many orders of magnitude different in energy.

    • jazzfeed

      Where’s the logic in stating that you are skeptical of one hazard warning because there is another one? They’re both hazardous and if one is “more” hazardous or risky it does not negate the risk of the other. Look up ‘bioaccumulation’.

    • Toxins
  • elsie blanche

    I have been told that many shipping containers containing imported food and beverages arriving into USA ports are x-rayed….the x-rays peering into the containers, revealing possible contraband, weapons, etc. I wonder what effect this has on food. Maybe the pure spring and mineral waters aren’t so pure after being x-rayed. Berries, supplements, fruits, veggies, you name it. If it is in a container it might be getting zapped. Anyone out there have any clarity on this? Dr. Greger, any veritable studies examining food integrity as a result of shipping containers being x-rayed?

    • jazzfeed

      Eat local.

    • Dan

      X-rays pass through the food, and yes the plants may be harmed by that process, but I think we harm them more when we chew and swallow them. I wouldn’t worry too much about the plants health.

  • Dr.Mark

    Radiation given at the level of dental exposure has recently been questioned as to whether it could actually be ‘good’ for you . Some claim that the body actually overshoots the assault and results in a healing episode. Interesting as this sounds I’m sure it is not ready for prime time.
    Point being though is that radiation does it’s damage by creation of free radicals. These harmful ions are drenched and made harmless by antioxidants. You are able to keep yourself safe during dental xrays by making sure that your antioxidant levels are up. It is that simple.
    The video points out that there are 100′s of millions of dental xrays taken every year. This number does not correlate with the number of brain cancers. Cancer happens in bodies with chronic inflamation. Get healthy and stop worrying. Stress is risk factor number one.
    Of course beware of dentists who take ‘routine’ xrays. Nothing is routine when it comes to the human body. Timely xrays can help to diagnose and head off big problems. The decision of when they should be taken should come with some thought.
    Be Well,
    Dr.Mark

  • Psych MD

    The point of my comment was that, contrary to my (former) dentist’s dismissive remark, an MRI does not employ radiation.

  • Dennis

    I was able to refuse “as per the official recommendation of the American Dental Association”! I just got a blank stare.———–Help———please direct me to this legal clause that says I can refuse x-rays per the official recommendation————please print this out clearer———–all i can find that if I refuse————dentist can refuse treatment???
    like don’t want to wear helmet— no go-cart rides for you!!!!
    Dennis

    • jazzfeed

      Find a biological dentist or another standard one who has thought his way out of the brainwash. Good luck.

    • mamabea2

      where can I find a dentist who doesn’t take xrays all the time?

  • Darryl

    It seems the 2006 ADA recommendation “Dentists should not prescribe routine dental radiographs at preset intervals to all patients” might have been supplanted. The 2012 ADA dental radiograph guidelines still recommend initial and regular interval x-rays for just about everyone but toothless adults – posterior bitewing radiographs for asymptomatic adults at low risk of dental carries at 2-3 year intervals, and for other patient groups at shorter intervals.

  • Kevin

    I went to the dentist today and refused xrays. They spent more time talking to me saying that I need to get Xrays than they did cleaning my teeth. They were very surprised that the ADA would not recommend getting Xrays. They said they will not clean my teeth if I do not have an xray done at least once every 2 years!!!!

    And that is only for patients that have good oral health. How is that even legal? This ticks me off. Also, I see the ADA document is from 2006. http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/broadcast/hs/dental/oralradiology2/2008/jada.pdf
    They have a new one from 2012. Are they reverting what they said in 2006 because of pressure from Dentist offices?

    • jazzfeed

      A stronger hypothesis is that the pressure comes from the radioimaging industry who make the expensive machines and lobby and/or bribe the ADA. Happens all day, everyday, with corrupting lobbyists and their corrupted congressperson targets. There is raging corporitis in every area.

  • Steve K

    My young son who is due to turn 7 later this month (December 2013) is due to have an X-ray of his skull next week here in England as he suffers from a very rare genetic disorder (Occipital Horn Syndrome) and the clinical genetic paediatricians want to look at his occipital prominences in more detail (the occipital bone is a saucer-shaped membrane bone situated at the back and lower part of the cranium). Sorry to sound naïve but does Dr. Greger (or anyone else here) know if the full mouth (panoramic) X-rays referred to here (in the accompanying video) would be the same procedure and method (and therefore present the same degree of invasiveness) as for a skull x-ray? Whilst we are or course keen to learn more about our son’s condition, understandably we have no wish to put him at risk from any other consequences from the radiation risk posed if it’s not entirely necessary. Any comments would be most gratefully received. Many thanks, Steve K

    • jazzfeed

      At least insist on DIGITAL, although they may counter that digital is not appropriate in your son’s situation. If so, corroborate that claim with an independent source.

  • Marita

    I have been going to the same dentist for about 30 years. When i began there I was still in my childbearing years, pregnant three times after I started going to him. When i realized I could get out of getting xrays by being pregnant, I would say, “Well, I might be pregnant and not know it yet.” Then when I got to old to be believed about that, I just said I didn’t want the extra expense that xrays cost. So, I am thankful that I have avoided about 60 dental xrays over the years. My mom was a nurse and told me long ago that xrays were dangerous.

  • Marina

    Hahahaha! I love your sense of humor!

  • GuestyBesty001

    Enenews dot com has been reporting on Fukushima daily.