Gloria Conroy, 65, has been getting dental X-rays every year for as long as she can remember.
"It didn't bother me because I don't want root canal problems. I don't want cavities," she said.
But according to a new study in the journal Cancer, the radiation from frequent dental X-rays may be linked to non-cancerous brain tumors called meningiomas.
The study examined nearly 3,000 patients. Researchers found those who got bitewing X-rays at least once a year or more had a 40 to 90 percent greater risk of a brain tumor.
But experts point out these results are based on higher radiation levels than patients are exposed to today.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's such a miniscule amount of radiation compared to the benefit of the diagnosis," said Dr. Solomon Maya of Maya Dental.
While dental X-rays are often necessary, researchers say these findings suggest moderate use of X-rays for patients with generally healthy teeth.
"When you come in for an annual routine examine, there's no reason to have X-rays at that point," said Dr. David Brenner, the director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University.
The American Dental Association recommends healthy Americans should get X-rays every two to three years, and children every one to two years. More research is needed to prove radiation from dental X-rays caused the tumors.
For now, Conroy is going to stick with what her dentist recommends.
"If he said I don't need any X-rays, then I don't need them. You know? That's how I view it," Conroy said.
She trusts him when it comes to weighing the risks and the benefits.
Meningiomas can cause problems like changes in vision, headaches and hearing and memory loss.
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