Oy veh! Here we go AGAIN! (x-rays)

Just when I thought the world could not get more stupid… they raised the bar of willful ignorance, AGAIN.  And, again!

The headline all over the news today:  “Dental x-rays tied to brain tumors!”

They cite a “study” published in the journal, “Cancer,” (produced by the American Cancer Society) that concludes that routine diagnostic dental x-rays may cause meningiomas (a common brain tumor).

If you look deeper at the “study,” you’ll see that they compiled their “data” by asking the subjects in the study to RECALL what kind of x-rays and how many they had… over their lifetime!  The ages of the participants is 20 – 79.  So, they are being asked to recall the minutia (how many and what kind of x-rays were taken) of dental appointments that happened as many as 70 years ago!  The notion of calling this “data” is truly laughable.  Worse… to PUBLISH it as “science” is irresponsible and reckless.

Multiple anecdotes, especially ones that depend on the subjects’ recollection of their childhood x-ray history, do not make data!

Watch this Today Show interview with Dr. Nancy Snyderman (who has now entered the race for dumbest doctor on TV, running neck and neck with Dr. Oz).  At the 1:25 mark, my mouth was agape.  See if your masseters, medial pterygoids, and temporalis muscles don’t instantly go slack when you hear what she said.  Stunning stupidity!  Video after the jump…

The “good doctor” Snyderman would have just as well said, “If you feel like your heart is healthy, you should not have the EKG (regardless of what your doctor recommends).”  After all, it FEELS good and healthy, so just skip any diagnostic tests!  Oy veh!

The frustrating sequellae is that no amount of rational explanation, logic, or REAL SCIENCE will assuage the IRRATIONAL, emotionally-laden, “radiophobics” that will walk into our offices.  The talking heads on TV are automatically smarter than we are.  They know more about dentistry… than DENTISTS.

It just won’t die!

This recurring “debate” has precipitated multiple posts about it in just the one year that my blog has been online:

“Mrs. Smith… This is why we take x-rays.”

I’ll Go to a Dentist I Can Tell What to Do! (x-rays again)

PS…  I also posted an article meant for consumers on my dental practice blog.

PPS… I used to make charitable donations to the American Cancer Society.  They just lost me.  Never again.  I just sent this email to the American Cancer Society:

Bye-bye American Cancer Society!

As of today, I will never donate another cent to your organization.  I was a regular contributor for many years.  

Today, the news was abuzz with your “Cancer” journal report that dental x-rays cause brain tumors.  The so-called research for this so-called “study” was so flawed as to be truly laughable (if it wasn’t being so recklessly used to misinform the public).  To correlate ANECDOTAL recollections (asking subjects to remember) of what x-rays they’ve had since they were children is the ANTITHESIS of science.  Any LEGITIMATE scientific organization would be in hysterics when presented such a ridiculous notion of a “study.”  I’m truly stunned that this got published as “science.”  

As a dentist, even I don’t recall what my own x-ray history is.  

Perhaps (perhaps not… since you do not seem to be based in science) you have heard the adage, “multiple anecdotes do not make data.”  You have ZERO real data to make even a correlation.  Furthermore, perhaps (or not) you’ve heard, “correlation does not equal causation.”  Yet, this is how the media has twisted your incompetent “study” to the public.  

Unfortunately, as a dentist, I have to deal with the hysteria you have (perhaps not unwittingly) created.  The reality is that without proper diagnostic x-rays, I’m unable to treat my patients.  I’m held legally and ethically responsible to perform a proper diagnosis, which MUST include radiographic images.  Patients cannot consent to negligence.  If I am ever faced with a state board review or a lawsuit, the FIRST thing they will ask for is x-rays.  And, if I don’t have them… to put it bluntly… I’M SCREWED.

So, when I have a patient who refuses STANDARD OF CARE x-rays (because of your reckless and irresponsible report), I will be forced to DISMISS them from my practice.  I am not willing to risk my license and livelihood to assuage irrational, emotionally-based “radiophobic” refusals of proper diagnosis.

My mother had cancer three times (starting at age 36 – stomach cancer) and ultimately succumbed to it (breast cancer leading to bone cancer at age 62).  My grandmother had cancer twice (breast, kidney).  Naturally, I would support cancer research.  And, so I have.  Until now.  You’ve made it glaringly apparent that you are NOT a scientifically based organization.  As such, and as a science-based professional myself, it would be self-contradictory to ever contribute money to your organization again.  Worse, it’s obviously money wasted.  I certainly won’t make the same mistake again, especially upon learning of your incompetence and possibly even malfeasance.  

Shame on you for publishing a “study” so grossly flawed.

UPDATE:  American Cancer Society Responds!

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11 Responses to Oy veh! Here we go AGAIN! (x-rays)

  1. Michael says:


  2. Chris says:

    Well said. I can’t believe this issue will not die. It is scary that this type of sensationalism is being called news!

  3. Adam says:

    I am a regular reader of your site and have always felt that you post insightful, intelligent articles that are a pleasure to read. It’s great to see you supporting our profession and standing up for what you believe in; I appreciate your wisdom and always look forward to reading what you have to say. This post is no exception. Bravo!

  4. Ken says:

    It saddens me to see common sense and logic trampled on so much these days. I used to see stuff like this (referring to the study) and make excuses for them thinking perhaps that they just don’t know but are good intentioned. Now with “studies” like this making national news shows and publications I question the intent. Is this a prelude to Obamacare? Less xrays means less diagnosis means less treatment means less costs (up front). I consider myself a rational middle of the road type person not prone to jump to conspiracy theories but continually hearing this crap passed off as science to the masses I now question what the real motives could be? Nobody could be that stupid…could they?

    Great response per usual Mike


    • The Dental Warrior says:

      I didn’t write about it, and while I’m not a subscriber to conspiracies, I had the same thoughts as you, Ken. WHY would something so abjectly lacking in scientific foundation be used as any sort of guideline or basis of medical advice??? There MUST be a reason or ulterior motive. But, yeah… a LOT of people are THAT stupid. Just watch Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” skit some time. Truly frightening stupidity.

  5. michael says:

    I am still mad about this BS study. But fellow dental warriors , who saw the pan on the video and the first thing you thought was get some crown on those RCT molars???!!!!! 🙂

  6. Ryan says:

    I already had a patient come in today saying she didn’t want xrays because of this “study.” She is not due for BWs until her next recall, so my hygienist didn’t explain and argue with her and just put it off. I didn’t know about it until after the patient left. The kicker is that this woman is a pharmacist! LOL It is ridiculous that educated researchers would put this junk out as “science.”

    BTW I keep a copy handy of the table you cite that lists the amount of radiation people receive annually. I haven’t had to put it in front of a patient yet though and show them how much they don’t know. LOL

  7. Peter Brown says:

    Thanks for the info. I had already come across the cancer study in a news article but I didn’t actually read it. I’m glad to know it’s inaccurate. Then again, I should have expected as much. I remember when I took a statistics class a couple of years ago learning that you can come to pretty much any conclusion you want but you’ve got make sure you have good data to come to a valid conclusion.

  8. Patti (RDH) says:

    This is very bothersome to me because now we will need to spend more time with our patients “defending” the need and safety of radiographs when we should be discussing other very important topics such as the oral/systemic connection, oral cancer screening and much more.

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