A medical topic of greater significance is the uptick in the development of thyroid cancer. I am not referring to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the ensuing radioactive contamination. I am speaking about the increased prevalence of thyroid cancer in the United States, which is not being caused by the consumption of tainted sushi, at least not yet. Rather, there seems to be a correlation between thyroid cancer, dental x-rays and mammograms. In one of his recent TV shows, Dr. Oz reported about this phenomenon.
The thyroid gland is very susceptible to ionizing radiation. So when exposed to excess radiation over the course of a lifetime, the thyroid can develop cancer. General dentistry has made great strides in reducing radiation exposure especially with the advent of digital x-rays, which can reduce the exposure by as much as 90%. I use only digital x-rays in my office.
The Use of Thyroid Collars
Additionally, there are special thyroid collars (part of the lead aprons routinely used during an x-ray exam) specifically designed to protect the gland. (All of our lead aprons have thyroid collars.) This and the judicious use of x-rays make modern dentistry thyroid friendly.
Many years ago, such technology and precautions either did not exist or were not universally implemented. Rest assured, we are watching out for your thyroid.
Mammograms are the other big offender. What is shocking and inexcusable is that while protective lead thyroid collars exist for use during a mammogram, many radiological facilities don’t bother using them. One of my patients who had seen the Dr. Oz show recently reported to me that she was not offered a thyroid collar until she asked for it. Oddly, it was in a nearby drawer and the technician only used it upon request and an informal survey of my female patients yielded less than a 50% thyroid collar use during their mammograms.
PROTECT YOURSELF: MAKE SURE THAT A PROTECTIVE COLLAR IS ALWAYS USED WHEN YOU HAVE DENTAL X-RAYS AND MAMMOGRAMS!