Category Archives: Dental Conditions

How to Decide on How Often You Should Take Dental X-rays

How often should I take X-rays?

Generally speaking, you should take dental X-rays every 6 months to one year. This varies and depends on your past dental history, your overall health and also how many teeth you have left. So which makes more sense for you, every 6 months or every year? There are several factors that determine this, so answer the following questions first:

  1. Do you currently have gum disease or have had a history of advanced gum disease in the past?
  2. Do you have a lot of existing fillings, crowns or other dental work on your teeth?
  3. Do you have one or more missing tooth?
  4. Do you skip out on brushing your teeth occasionally?
  5. Do you sometimes go a few days without flossing your teeth?
  6. Do you consume too much processed sugars especially candies, artificial sweets, chocolates, sodas, etc.

If you answered “yes” to most of the above questions then you are most likely a medium to high risk dental patient. As such, you should consider taking your X-rays every 6 months at the same time as your exam and cleaning.

If you answered “no” to most or all of the above questions then you are considered a low risk dental patient. This means that you are a good candidate for taking dental X-rays once a year instead, on every other checkup. Note that you have to be your own advocate here since most dentists won’t offer you this option on their own. Additionally, note that dental assistants are typically programmed to automatically take your X-rays every six month. As such, make sure to let your dentist, staff and X-ray technician know that you have discussed taking X-rays once a year and are there only for a cleaning and check-up.

Final thought on X-Ray frequency

Dentists Can't Detect Cavities In-Between Teeth Without X-rays

Taking regular dental X-rays helps you avoid potential serious dental problems. It lets your dentist catch cavities in their early stages before they have a chance to cause pain. Some cavities, especially those located in between teeth, are almost impossible to catch on time without proper X-rays. In addition to their benefits in catching cavities, dental X-rays also have very low levels of radiation. Plus, most dentists only take a handful of X-rays every six months and not an entire series. A full set of X-rays consists of 16 to 20+ X-rays and is usually only reserved for new patients, whereas routine checkup X-rays typically requires 4 to 8 X-rays. Overall, the benefits of taking these X-rays typically outweighs its risks.

All the benefits of not taking as many X-rays will be negated should you end up with a single infected tooth as a result of missing a cavity due to the lack of a sufficient X-ray. You will now require a whole bunch of additional X-rays to perform a root canal, tooth extraction or dental implant. Taking these recall X-rays regularly helps avoid these more serious problems and saves you time, money and additional radiation exposure.

Is it worth obtaining a copy of my X-rays from my old dentist to show them to the new dentist?

If you want to reduce your radiation exposure then you need to be careful here. Your new dentist will require a full set of X-rays to allow him or her to properly treat you. If you are switching dentists, consider obtaining a copy of your most current X-rays from your previous dentist. This will allow your new dentist to skip having to take a full set of X-rays. But if you haven’t been to the dentist in a long time, 3 or more years, then you will most likely require new X-rays anyways. At this point, don’t bother going through the troubles of obtaining these X-rays as this will not help much.

NEXT >> How often should you take dental X-rays: Every 6 Months

How often should you take dental X-rays: Once a year

How Often Should You Take Dental X-rays: Once a Year

Taking X-Rays once a year

When do I not need as many dental X-rays?

While most patients get their X-rays taken every 6 months, there are patients who would do just fine taking their X-rays once a year. Here are some cases where you might want to talk to your dentist about taking less frequent X-rays on you:

Very low risk patients

Low Risk Patients can Take X-Rays Once a Year Instead

If you are an adult with excellent teeth and healthy gums, you may opt to have your X-rays taken once a year instead of every 6 months. We don’t recommend you go any less than once a year without taking X-rays as this could seriously risk your teeth or gums. Here are the conditions you need to meet to be considered a very low risk patient:

  • No presence of gum disease
  • Straight teeth with no large gaps that trap food
  • Excellent oral hygiene habits with daily brushing and flossing
  • Very little to no history of existing dental work, maybe just a few small fillings at most

If you have gum disease, lots of existing dental work, crooked teeth or poor oral hygiene, then 6 months is the longest you should go without taking X-rays!

Pregnancy

When pregnant, you must skip routine X-rays as precautionary measure.  Only take X-rays for emergency pain situations after you’ve obtained your physician’s permission. Keep in mind that the ideal time to receive any sort of dental treatment during pregnancy is the second trimester.

History of cancer or other relevant medical issues

If you have had a previous history of cancer or any other medical issues where you are encouraged to minimize exposures to radiation, then talk to your dentist about the possibility of taking less frequent X-rays. He or she may be able to accommodate this if your oral health is good enough and you are a relatively low risk patient. Of course many types of cancers affect your teeth by damaging your salivary flow, teeth quality or ability to maintain proper oral hygiene, so you may not be able to alter your frequency of X-rays after all.

NEXT >> How to decide on the frequency of X-rays

How often should you take dental X-rays: Every 6 month checkup

Seeing or Avoiding the Dentist During Pregnancy

10 Questions to help you decide if you should see a dentist during pregnancy or not

10 Questions to help you decide if you should see a dentist during pregnancy or not

Once you’ve read and learned about the does and don’ts of seeing a dentist during pregnancy, it’s now time to decide what to do. Here is a list of question to better help you decide whether seeing or avoiding the dentist makes more sense during pregnancy. Please answer each question with either a “yes” or “no“:

  1. Are your gums bleeding more than they usually do?
  2. If you are in pain, would you say the pain is between a 7 to 10? (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest)
  3. Is your pain lingering and throbbing in nature?
  4. Does your pain last for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time?
  5. Are you still in your first or second trimester?
  6. Can you go back to a dentist you’ve already been to recently or within the last few years?
  7. If you can’t go back to your existing dentist, do you have access to pick up your X-rays from them or are able to contact them for a copy of your X-rays?
  8. Have you already obtained a medical clearance letter from your physician or OB/GYN?
  9. If you are in need of pain killers and medications, have you already asked for them from your primary care or OB/GYN?
  10. Has your physician positively advised you to seek dental treatment for you pain?

Going to the Dentist During Pregnancy

Good candidates for seeing the dentist during pregnancy

If you answered “yes” to most of the above questions then you should get yourself ready and go to your dentist, even if you are pregnant!

Question 1: Dental cleanings

There’s nothing wrong with receiving a cleaning during your pregnancy as we’ve already mentioned. In fact, getting a dental cleaning during pregnancy is highly advisable, especially if you’re suffering from pregnancy gingivitis, which is identified by easily bleeding gums or sudden development of teeth sensitivity.

Here is the protocol on receiving dental cleanings during pregnancy: Avoid taking routine X-rays prior to your dental cleaning. It’s also best to avoid getting numb, even if you normally prefer to do so. If your teeth are very sensitive, consider using a topical numbing agent instead of the injectable types. If this doesn’t work, ask your dentist or hygienist to switch out their cleaning instrument for a different one. For instance, ask them use a hand instrument instead of a cavitron, which tends to be more painful. Finally, try to get your dental cleaning during your second trimester to maximum its benefits.

Questions 2 through 4: Severe pain

There better be some serious pain if you’re going to go through the hassles of seeing your dentist during pregnancy! If your teeth are slightly hot and cold sensitive, try to modify your diet or use a sensitivity toothpaste. On the other hand, if you are experiencing an actual toothache, such as a severe toothache or one which is throbbing and lingering, then go and see your dentist right away!

Question 5: Too far along

When you’re in the first or second trimester there is still quite a ways to go. As such, it makes more sense to seek some sort of treatment if you are having a toothache. If you are experiencing pain early on during pregnancy, chances are you probably won’t be able to postpone treatment for several more months. It’s best to make arrangements to go to your dentist and see if they can help address your problem.

On the other hand, if you are already too far along your final trimester, it might just be wise to hold off treatment for just a bit longer. Consider talking to your physician to see if he or she can give you some medicine to help get you through these final weeks. Of course, you can always consult with your dentist to prepare yourself for what’s about to come if that’s your preference. Although at this point it might just make more sense to hold off on definitive treatment until after delivery, if at all possible.

Questions 6 and 7: Searching for a new dentist

If you have a dentist which you’ve been seeing regularly then seeking a consultation during pregnancy is not an issue. After all, they already know who you are and probably even have an idea of which tooth it is that is bothering you. Additionally, they will have your X-rays on file which makes it much easier to treat you. Changing dentists during pregnancy can be quite challenging. Building a new relationship, taking new X-rays and rendering comprehensive care is much more difficult when you are pregnant.

Questions 8 through 10: Preparation for your dental treatment

Once you’ve made up your mind that you prefer to see a dentist, it’s time to prepare for your appointment. It’s best if you visit your primary care or OB/GYN first to obtain a medical clearance letter. Showing up to your dentist with the clearance letter in hand will save you lots of time and headaches. Note that most dentists don’t require a medical clearance letter if you’re only seeking a dental cleaning. Nevertheless, you should check with them in advance as this doesn’t always apply. Also make sure to ask your physician for any medication which you might need. Most dentists won’t give you any medications during your pregnancy and will most likely refer you back to your physician.

Good candidate for avoiding the dentist during pregnancy

If you answered “no” to most of the above questions then you should avoid going to the dentist and consider postponing treatment until after childbirth.

Final thought on pregnancy and the dentist

It can be a tough decision deciding on whether to see or avoid the dentist during pregnancy. The wisest thing to do is to get a complete checkup before you become pregnant. If however you do miss this opportunity, then try to limit your visits to either dental cleanings or emergency treatments. Expect to receive limited treatment and possibly get referred to dental specialists for more extensive treatments.

NEXT >> What are the protocols for seeing the dentist during pregnancy?

What are precautions during pregnancy you should take when at the dentist?