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Dental X-rays Could be Giving Your Patients Thyroid Cancer

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In a move aimed at minimizing radiation exposure, the ATA issued a statement this month that detailed the risks of thyroid cancer?especially in young people?and how dental professionals can do their part to keep their patients healthy.

According to the ATA, ?the incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing faster than any other cancer.? And while dental x-rays are not suspected as the primary reason for this increase, reducing exposure to the sensitive thyroid gland in any way possible is paramount to reversing this trend.

Thyroid Gland

It?s not all doom and gloom however. The ATA recommends 6 steps (reproduced below) that clinicians can take to ensure their patients are not exposed to unnecessary x-ray radiation:

  1. The risk of thyroid cancer arising from radiation exposure is very strongly dependent on age at exposure. It is only recently that a thyroid cancer risk for exposure after age 15 has been observed. This risk is low, but not absent.
  2. For the purposes of public health planning, most experts and organizations assume that the risks for cancer, including thyroid cancer, are reduced proportionately with the dose.
  3. The necessity of all diagnostic x-rays should be evaluated before they are performed. This must include the potential risks as well as the potential benefits to the patient. This must also include a consideration of the alternative methods for obtaining the same or related clinical information.
  4. Thyroid-protective collars should be used for all dental x-rays when they do not interfere with the examination. Thyroid-protective collars are not needed for screening mammograms.
  5. The patient or the patient's decision maker should be made aware of the potential risks and benefits of radiation in a manner that is understandable to them.
  6. Clinicians should be adequately informed about the potential risks of radiation and the general principles of radiation dosimetry, especially as they relate to children and to the thyroid.

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