AAOMR Challenges Bitewing X-Ray Cancer Study

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A study published in the journal Cancer linking bitewing dental x-rays with brain tumors has drawn as much flak for its methodology as it has publicity for its results. This week the American Academy of Maxillfacial and Oral Radiology (AAOMR) took researchers to task for “a number of irreconcilable data collection and consistency problems” with the study, which “highlight serious flaws in the study and render the conclusions invalid.” Among the objections AAOMR raised were that the research is established upon the memory of its subjects. Requiring that participants recollect their dental radiography history “from decades ago when they were children...is likely considerably unreliable,” read a press release from the group. Likewise, the AAOMR said that the idea that bitewing x-rays somehow put subjects at a greater risk of developing a tumor than did a full mouth series of radiographs “cannot be rationally reconciled from a radiobiological standpoint.” The group affirmed that ionizing radiation from dental x-rays has declined more than 60% in the time since, thanks to improvements in film speed, digital sensors, and patient shielding--things about which the people surveyed in the study may not necessarily have been informed. Lead author Elizabeth Claus, Director of Medical Research at the Yale School of Public Health was quoted in a press release from the university as saying her research “highlights the need for increasing awareness regarding the optimal use of dental x-rays, which unlike many risk factors, is modifiable,” although an article dissecting these criticisms in the Yale student newspaper indicated that Claus “could not be reached for comment.”