Dental X-Rays

A lead apron to protect the reproductive organs may not be enough to protect a developing baby when her mother has dental x-rays. Researchers at the University of Washington analyzed the pregnancies of 5,585 women and found that that those who had received dental x-rays were more than 3 times more likely to deliver a low birth weight baby at term.

The full results of the study were published in the April 28, 2004 Journal of the American Medical Association. Current guidelines on x-rays during pregnancy are based on the idea that only direct radiation to the reproductive organs is a problem. This study suggests that even very-low-dose radiation to a mother’s head and neck can stunt her baby’s growth, perhaps by affecting her thyroid gland.

We know that a pregnant mother’s thyroid hormone is important for her baby’s physical and mental growth.

Overall, about 1 in 10 women in the U.S. get dental x-rays while pregnant. While clean teeth and gums are important during pregnancy, I don’t recommend any unnecessary x-rays while pregnant, even very-low-dose x-rays of the mouth.

Published on: May 06, 2004
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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