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The Lead Apron Dinosaur The Lead Apron Dinosaur

Author(s):

Richard Erickson, MS, DDS

Date Added:

1/1/2007


Summary:

There are a few rebels out there who say the lead apron should go the way of the cuspidor, belt-driven handpiece and foot pumped barber chair. I am one of them. I am aware of the ADA's position on recommending its use for every patient but is that really in the patient's best interest? More importantly, is there any scientific basis in the literature for this polemic “standard of care”? Perhaps in cases of pregnant women requiring a dental xray, it would be prudent from a legal standpoint only, as our litigious friends would like nothing better than to confront a dentist us in court on this issue should a birth defect occur. However, is it necessary for all other patients? Let's look at dental xrays and the lead apron from a historical perspective. It is my belief that the reason lead aprons are still used in dentistry is simply because, "That's the way we've always done it." But haven't things changed since Röntgen first xrayed his wife's hand using a crude, unshielded xray tube in the laboratory (right). Just because "we've always done it that way", does it make scientific sense to continue to do it? Our medical colleagues routinely take chest xrays and mammograms without additional patient shielding using dosages much higher than those used in dental xrays. If there is no logical reason for using a lead apron on most patients, are we not helping to perpetuate the historical paranoia many patients have toward dental xrays? The laying of a heavy lead apron serves only to emphasize in the patient's mind the power and danger of dental xrays, a mental picture which is very real for many patients..

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