Dear Dr. Oz
Imagine our surprise when a patient called yesterday nearly hysterical concerning dental xrays because she had watched your show. She called to tell us she never wanted her family to have xrays again because you said that 5 xrays a year are dangerous and to find out if we had been using thyroid shields. We were able to assure her that we have used thyroid shields for years and years. However, we didn’t know what she was talking about regarding 5 xrays being dangerous.
When I got home I watched the show on thyroid cancer. I was disappointed that you cited that study in the way that you did. I was shocked by the female doctor you had on the show when she said that she would question the doctor about the necessity of xrays and “if it was just to check your teeth” she wouldn’t have them. WOW! Thank you, Dr. Oz! What a disservice you have done to your viewers’ dental health. I would hazard a guess that she has never had the pain of an infected tooth in need of root canal therapy. We check teeth with xrays to discover hidden decay so that we can remove it before it reaches the pulp and causes the patient to need root canal therapy or have the tooth extracted. A visual exam of a person’s teeth doesn’t tell us much. I’d say I’m only seeing about 25% of the story when I am limited to a visual exam. That was totally irresponsible of that doctor to discount dental xrays the way she did and it was irresponsible of you to allow that to be said without having a dentist on the show to give some perspective to the segment.
Before I watched the show I looked online to see if there was new information about dental xrays and thyroid cancer. I found the study that was published this year and read the abstract. While you state on the show that it was a large study, in fact, it was a study of only 313 people in Kuwait with thyroid cancer and a “similar” number of control people. They said the results of their study “should be treated with caution because the data were necessarily based on self-reporting by the participants. Comprehensive historical dental x-ray records were not available from the clinics." You did not treat this study with any caution at all when you reported it on your show. You treated it as cold, hard fact.
As a “self-reporting” study we know nothing about the frequency of xrays, the actual number of xrays taken, the dose of radiation per xray, the speed of the film, the quality of the machines used on these patients, etc., etc. Incidentally, Kuwait has an abnormally high incidence of thyroid cancer. Where was this information in your show? I guess it was just better TV to tell people that dental xrays give you thyroid cancer rather than give them the facts.
The Health Physics Society as well as the American Dental Association report that a full series (18 xrays) of dental xrays exposes a patient to 1 -1.5 mrems. 4 bitewing xrays expose a patient to .2 -.3 mrems. So how does that compare to other forms of exposure? Did you know that cooking with natural gas exposes a person to 10 mrems of radiation per year? Or how about sleeping next to someone 2 mrems/yr; smoke detectors < 1 mrem/yr; brick houses 10 mrem/yr; one cross country flight 4-5 mrem; reading a book 3 hours a day 1 mrem/yr; chest xray 10 mrem ; smoking 1.5 packs a day 1300mrem. In fact, the average American receives 360 mrem per year just from naturally occurring radiation from outerspace, the earth, and foods we eat.
The dental profession has known for many years to protect the thyroid. It is good to have patients aware that their dentist should use lead aprons with a thyroid shield, but it is wrong to unnecessarily scare people about routine dental treatment.
I would like to know if patients refuse their xrays because of your show should I refer them to you for their dental work when they have problems that I am not able to evaluate as a result of not having the diagnostic information provided by dental xrays?
My wife has been a fan of yours for many years. We have all of the You books on our bookshelf. She went to your breakout session at the California Women’s Conference last year and came home enthused about the information she received. After watching your show about dental xrays and thryroid cancer she said she now knows to take your advice with a grain of salt and do more research and verification of information you disseminate.
So here we go again -- another attack on the dental profession. It seems every couple of years the media likes to caution everyone about going to the dentist. This time you are responsible for the attack. Thanks, Dr. Oz.
Bradford Boyd, DDS
Georgetown University Dental School ‘82
UC Berkeley ‘75