Dentists urged to 'child-size' radiation doses for young patients

Dentist urged to 'child-size' radiation doses for young patients
Cierra Ullrich (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Cierra Ullrich (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Dr. William Scarfe (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Dr. William Scarfe (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Kimberley Hearn (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)
Kimberley Hearn (Source: Doug Druschke, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The saying goes "The world always looks brighter from behind a smile." But keeping that smile bright at the wrong hands could hurt your child's long-term health. That's the idea behind a new campaign being pushed out to dentists and other dental professionals around the country.

The University of Louisville Dental School's Director of Radiology and Imaging Science is joining a team of doctors across the country to get that word out to dentists who treat your children.

In Cierra Ullrich's hands, a phone becomes just as good as any camera.

"I like taking pictures of anything," she said. "It just kind of depends on my mood. Sometimes it's more of outside things."

Sometimes she points the camera to herself.

"I've tried to take pictures of my own mouth and it didn't work out," said Cierra.

That is what brought her and her grandmother to UofL's School of Dentistry for X-rays with just the right amount of radiation for a young body.

"They're up to three to five times as sensitive as myself to radiation," said dr. William Scarfe, director of Radiology and Imaging Science at UofL's School of Dentistry.

Scarfe is helping lead an awareness campaign called Image Gently. It asks dentists to consider just how much radiation their young patients are getting.

"Is it necessary is always the first question," said Scarfe.

He says switching from film to digital radiology reduces the dose, as does focusing on a specific region instead of the whole head.

"We should reduce the dose to what their size is," Scarfe said "That's called child-sizing exposure."

Parents, Scarfe says, should look for a dentist to use a thyroid collar, a preferred, but not mandated method in Kentucky.

"That significantly reduces the dose to children whose thyroids are very sensitive by about 50%," said Scarfe.

It's all eye-opening information to Cierra's grandmother.

"I wish I would have known about that for my kids so that I could ask my dentist to make sure that he did not over radiate them," said Kimberley Hearn.

Now that she knows, the next pictures taken of Cierra's mouth, says Hearn, will be done the right way.

"I can tell my son and my daughter so that they can make sure that when they go to the dentist, that they ask about that," Hearn said.

Scarfe says parents can and should ask questions about the reasons and the way their children are having images taken at the dentist.

The six-step Image Gently plan includes:

  • Select x-rays for a patient's individual needs, not as routine.
  • Use the fastest image receptor possible, E- or F-speed film or digital sensors
  • Aim the x-ray beam to expose only the area of interest.
  • Use thyroid collars
  • Child-size the exposure
  • Use cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) only when necessary

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