Brain Cancer Linked to Dental X-Rays: Bitewings and Meningioma


Home / Brain Cancer Linked to Dental X-Rays: Bitewings and Meningioma

Panorex x-ray. Photo by: Clarck Desire

Dental cleanings and x-rays are an important part of maintaining good dental hygiene, but is the radiation going to give you or your kids brain cancer?

The American Dental Association’s guidelines for healthy patients recommend that children receive one x-ray every 1-2 years, that adolescents receive one x-ray every 1.5-3 years, and that adults receive one x-ray every 2-3 years. These guidelines are for patients with healthy dental hygiene – if you have dental problems, you may need more than the recommended x-rays. According to the American Dental Association, the amount of radiation that patients are exposed to during an x-ray are very small compared to natural radiation exposure. The bitewing  x-ray, for example, has an estimated exposure of 0.038 and the full mouth x-ray has an estimated exposure of 0.150. The average radiation in the U.S. each year from natural sources is 3.000. However, new research has linked dental x-rays to a common form of brain cancer.

Dental X-Rays and Brain Cancer Study

Talk with your dentist about how often you need x-rays. Photo by Bernard bill5

A study published today, entitled, Dental X-rays and Risk of Meningioma examined the link between dental x-rays and a common form of brain cancer called, meningioma.

One of the risk factors for developing meningioma is the exposure to ionizing radiation. According to the study, dental x-rays are the most common source of exposure to ionizing radiation. Elizabeth Claus, MD, PhD, of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and her colleagues studied information gathered from 1,433 patients who were diagnosed with meningioma between May 1, 2006 and April 28, 2011. The researchers compared the patients with meningioma to a control group. The control group included 1,350 people who did not have meningioma.

Dr. Claus and her colleagues found that over a lifetime, patients who were diagnosed with meningioma were twice as likely to have had a bitewing x-ray than the control group. People who had bitewings taken once a year or more often were 1.4 to 1.9 times more likely to develop meningioma. Investigators also found that people who had panorex x-rays (pictures taken outside the mouth) taken on a yearly or on a more frequent basis were 2.7 to 3.0 times more likely to develop meningioma compared to the control group. People who had panorex x-rays taken when they were younger than the age of ten were 4.9 times more likely to be diagnosed with meningioma.

The study noted that patients today are exposed to lower amounts of radiation than the patients in the study. Decoded Science requested an interview with Dr. Claus about the results of this study, but has received no response as of publication.

Dental X-Rays and Cancer

This study presents important information for both dentists and patients – talk to your dentist if you’re concerned about the frequency of X-rays in light of this new research.


Elizabeth B. Claus, Lisa Calvocoressi, Melissa L. Bondy, Joellen M. Schildkraut, Joseph L. Wiemels, and Margaret Wrensch. Dental X-rays and Risk of Meningioma. (2012). Cancer (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.26625). Accessed April 11, 2012.

American Dental Association. X-Rays. Accessed April 9, 2012.

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