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Dentists are willing to do more X-Rays if they are paid for the procedure

Posted January 31, 2018

X-Ray in medicine is extremely valuable tool. However, you really want to use only when it is absolutely necessary, because X-Ray radiation is harmful. Now scientists say that the amount of X-Ray radiation increases significantly if the dentist is paid to do them. This is an extremely dangerous practise, which just gets worse if the patient exempt from charges.

Patients who get procedures with no charge get more X-Ray radiation. Image credit: Aniskov via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

X-Ray allows looking into the structure of the tooth and it root system. This is undoubtedly useful, but X-Rays are known to cause cancer, by altering DNA and inhibiting cells’ ability to repair themselves. Dangers are minute, when the X-Ray is administered rarely. The dose of radiation in a dental X-Ray is really not that big, but there are no safe levels. Now scientists revealed that if the dentists is paid to do X-Rays, he is more likely to do them more often than the professional who works on a fixed salary.

Scotland was perfect for this study, because its dentists use both payment methods. Scientists analysed data collected between 1998 and 2007 by NHS Scotland on Scottish dentists and their patients. Because the timeframe was so big, some dentists actually switched from one payment method to the other. At the same time, some patients went through paying for the dentistry services to getting their teeth fixed without a charge. This presented a very diverse set of information. So much so that such factors as dentist’s personality, patient’s situation and so on do not alter the results. Which are that fee-for-service results in more X-Rays as well as a no-charge payment method. The later may be because patients are less resistant when they are not paying out of pocket.

Scientists are not saying that observed X-Ray in this study was excessive. However, they are saying that some regulations must change to prevent unnecessary X-Rays. Some other changes could be sharing dental records – the same tooth doesn’t always have to get several X-Rays in different doctors. Richard Niederman, professor and chair of epidemiology and health promotion at New York University College of Dentistry, said: “In addition to health care regulators, dental x-ray guideline developers also need to be cognizant of these financial incentives for doctors and patients. It is morally and ethically unacceptable for financial interests to supersede patient safety”.

People should know more about how harmful X-Ray can be too. This may help them resist unnecessary procedures.


Source: University of York

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