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ADA Statement: Diagnostic Radiation Procedures Must Be Used Sparingly to Reduce Dental Radiation Risk

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Telephone: 312-440-2806
E-mail: mediarelations@ada.org (Journalists) or Contact ADA (All Others)

CHICAGO,  Nov. 23, 2010—Today's New York Times' article, "Radiation Worries Rise with 3-D Dental Images," provides an in-depth look and differing opinions about the use of cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) in dentistry.  The American Dental Association (ADA) has reviewed the article and believes the story reinforces long-standing ADA positions supporting the judicious use of diagnostic imaging techniques and procedures that emit radiation.

ADA positions hold that dentists should apply the ALARA principle (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) to reduce radiation exposure to their patients by: determining the need for and type of radiographs to take; using "best practices" during imaging, including the application of quality control procedures; and, interpreting the images completely and accurately.

"Dentists should weigh the benefits of dental radiographs against the consequences of increasing a patient's exposure to radiation, the effects of which accumulate from multiple sources over time," according to the ADA's Council on Scientific Affairs report, "The Use of Dental Radiographs: Update and recommendations."

In addition, since 1989, the ADA has published recommendations that promote reduced radiation exposure, such as the use of abdominal shielding (e.g., protective aprons) and thyroid collars (when feasible) on all patients, especially for children, women of childbearing age, and pregnant women.   The ADA also recommends the use of the fastest image receptor compatible with the diagnostic task (but not slower than E-speed film). 

CBCT is a relatively new diagnostic imaging technology in the dental office. However, in regards to this technology, the ADA relies on its long-standing position that the ordering of diagnostic radiation procedures for patients should occur only if absolutely necessary for diagnosis and treatment.

The association continues to fully support continuing research that helps dentists deliver high-quality oral health care safely and effectively.