So many of our patients are refusing X-rays lately. People are more aware and more concerned about health and radiation exposure. And rightfully so. Odds of getting cancer are now 1 in 2. One in two people will get cancer! That is a scary statistic so it makes sense that everyone is trying to reduce or at least minimize their exposure to known carcinogens.
Oral Cancer Facts
Mouth cancer occurs in 1 out of 6,500 people. It kills roughly 1 person per hour, every single day. And of those diagnosed, only half will be alive in 5 years. But the problem is, the other half will go through radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, some of which includes the removal of portions of their jaw or face, resulting in difficulty in speech, chewing or swallowing foods, as well as the need for a facial prosthesis.
The majority of people get diagnosed over the age of 40 but recently, oral cancer is on the rise in a younger age group due to HPV. Many factors contribute to oral cancer, including genetics, HPV exposure, smoking, alcohol, diet, but in the end, the key is truly early diagnosis when the cancer is in its early stages and can be treated easily with minor excision rather than death or need for chemo, radiation, and facial surgery and reconstruction.
Patients are refusing dental X-rays in an effort to minimize their exposure to known carcinogens. Because I truly appreciate this concern, I want to put this in perspective.
Dental X-rays help us to early diagnose many oral cancers, cysts and tumours. Without this valuable diagnostic tool, we miss most of these and won’t catch them till it’s too late. If diagnosed early, you are looking at a minor procedure, one where you are numb (so no pain), the cancer is removed easily with excision, and you can go back to work or home right after, with minimal if any discomfort.
The flip side of this, if you don’t allow us to catch these problems early, you are putting yourself at high risk for much more invasive treatment where you will need radiation, chemotherapy, surgery and debilitating facial outcomes, if not death. And ironically, the radiation exposure, when this type of treatment is needed to save your life, is huge in comparison.
To help you compare your radiation exposure with respect to dental x-rays, when digital, here is a unit comparison:
1 dental xray DIGITAL = 0.1 unit of radiation
Eating a banana = 0.1 units of radiation
Sleeping next to someone for one night = 1 unit of radiation
Background (just from existing daily) radiation = 10 units of radiation
Daily dose from food (simply eating gives you this) = 1 unit of radiation
1 short flight = 40 units of radiation
CT scan = 10000 units of radiation
So think about it, for one X-ray we take to help save you from debilitating disease or death, it’s equivalent to eating a banana and much less than sleeping next to someone for one night. If we consider those numbers, we don’t hesitate to go to sleep next to our spouse or our baby, and we certainly don’t think twice when flying on business or to a vacation spot, and all those expose us to much more radiation than a dental X-ray. And if you don’t get that X-ray but you do have cancer and require a CT scan or radiation to treat it later on, the results are simply scary and debilitating!
One Last Thing…
Odds of getting cancer is 1 in 6500.
Odds of winning the lottery is 1 in 292,200,000.
Why wouldn’t you get the X-rays you need to ensure you win the lottery of life?