Getting dental X rays while pregnant might increase a woman's risk of giving birth to a low-birth-weight baby, a new study suggests.
Physicians try to minimize diagnostic X rays for pregnant women because radiation is most damaging to fetal and other rapidly dividing cells. When X rays in areas away from the abdomen are necessary during pregnancy, doctors shield the womb with a lead apron. Nevertheless, medical X rays have been linked to low-birth-weight babies.
Dental X rays had never been correlated with low birth weight. Previous research, however, pointed to the neck's thyroid gland as an unintended target of dental X rays. Thyroid hormone regulates metabolism, growth, and other functions, and its disruption during pregnancy could affect the development of the fetus, one hypothesis holds.