Why Radiographs? How to answer your patient’s questions regarding the recent study by Yale School of Public Health

As if it wasn’t hard enough for you already to get your patients to understand why it is important for you to take routine radiographs, the Yale School of Public Health threw a curve ball at you. 

By now, you’ve probably read the study (http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/news/News/study-examines-possible-link-between-dental-x-rays-and-meningioma-risk), so you know the study was based on patients' memories, not on a review of patient records.  You also know this study went back to an era when the dental industry was using traditional radiographs. Now, the majority of the dental offices utilize digital radiography, which greatly reduces the amount of radiation to which a patient is exposed. 

You should expect that you are going to have patients asking questions, and refusing radiographs.  As always, it is your ethical and moral responsibility to educate them as to why it is important for you to have these radiographs, and that you are not just taking them because their dental benefit plan “allows” you to.  

So, instead of avoiding the topic, take advantage of this opportunity to open a dialogue with the patient on what you do and believe about dental radiographs.  This is the perfect opportunity for you and your team to review the ADA recommendations, and discuss your own viewpoint about taking radiographs.

Let your patients know:

  • you follow all guidelines to maximize their safety, utilizing the newest technology
  • your equipment is properly maintained
  • you are using proper shielding in order to protect the patient. 

Also, inform them you utilize the ADA recommendations as a standard, but in an individual way, based on what you know about dental health and the risk for decay and gum disease.  Co-diagnose the need for radiographs with the patient, based on their oral health.

Engage them in this very important discussion. By doing so you will reduce their (unwarranted) anxieties and fears, and establish a level of trust and confidence that benefits all.