Cheap X-Ray Machine Putting Dental Patients At Risk

By on December 21, 2012

Dentists have been warned over the potential health risks to patients caused by using certain hand-held X-ray machines. The Tianjie Dental Falcon is a cheap imported machine that exposes patients to around 10 times the normal level of radiation, resulting in a substantial risk of cancer and organ damage. The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency is asking that the NHS and private dentists get rid of these devices to prevent further harm to patients.

It is unclear just how many patients have been affected by the cheap X-ray machines. Currently 13 of these machines, being sold by a Chinese manufacturer across the internet at sites including eBay, have been detained at a distribution centre. There has been at least one case of a dental surgery using one of these machines.

The Health Protection Agency, along with scientists at King’s College Hospital in London did some emergency testing around the product that revealed there is insufficient lead shielding inside the machine to protect dentists and patients from the excessive radiation omitted. The X-ray beam of the machine is also too wide, meaning that a person’s whole skull and brain is exposed to the radiation, not just their mouth. There are also potential hazards as a result of the type of electrical plug the device has. It is fitted with a European plug and a travel adapter, that is not earthed nor have a fuse for UK main supplies that could result in fires and a serious 50 thousand volts shock to the dentist or patient.

Donald Emerton, one of the scientists who tested the device, said that someone who was using the device over time would be exposed to unacceptable levels of radiation that would increase the risk of health problems. The MHRA believes that it has shut down the only distributor in the UK but there are ongoing investigations to make sure no more devices can be sold in Britain.

The problem is that, it is unclear just how many of these devices are in circulation and Zhengzhou Tianjie Electronic Equipment Co, the manufacturer is unavailable to contact at present. The device was priced at £200 – significantly less than other hand held X-ray machines that sell in the UK at around £4,000.

The MHRA’s Medical Devices Enforcement Team has stated that it is vital that dental practices do not buy these devices as they are not approved or safe. Barry Cockcroft, the chief dental officer for England stated that is vitally important that equipment is checked to make sure it is safe and appropriate for use when purchasing new products. Practices should be cautious when products are seemingly cheap as they may not be appropriate.

Gareth writes on a number of health topics on behalf of AXA PPP healthcare who provide dental insurance plans as well as other private healthcare plans.

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