Forget airport scanners. When it comes to radiation, there are a lot of other sources of exposure to be worried about, especially when it comes to kids.

For the most part, doctors avoid doing any X-rays on children unless it is absolutely necessary. When they do, they tend to use the lowest levels of radiation possible.

But dentists seem to be exempt from these rules. Not only do most dentists continue to use outmoded X-ray film that requires higher amounts of radiation, but a recent New York Times investigation found that orthodontists and other specialists are embracing a new scanning device that emits even more radiation than standard methods.  

The device is called a cone-beam CT scanner. It gives dentists and orthodontists a 3-D image of teeth, roots, jaw and even skull. Its promoters say the technology is a safe way for orthodontists and oral surgeons to work with more precision and to identify problems that otherwise might go unnoticed.

But detractors are concerned that most of the research done to date on cone-beam technology has been industry-sponsored. It is unclear if the extra radiation is necessary or if it is simply a way to get a fast, prettier picture of a child's teeth.

“Kids love to see that 3-D image,” Dr. Terry Sellke, an orthodontist in Illinois, said in a Webcast sponsored by Imaging Sciences.

They may love it, but do their bodies love the extra radiation?  

[via New York Times]

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