We have no problem going to our dentists twice a year to get cleanings and checkups. After all it makes sense to have dental cleanings every six months to prevent cavities and fight off gum disease. But what about the X-rays, do we need them every six months as well? Do dental problems really happen that quickly to justify taking so many of these X-rays? If not, then should you consider talking to your dentist about taking less frequent X-rays, like maybe once a year on every other visit.
Pros of Taking Radiographs on Every 6 Months Checkup
1. Dental problems can occur within just a few months. It’s true, a new cavity can develop or significantly progress within just a few months. There is always the chance that a new cavity or a recurring one is starting to show up on your X-rays within the 6 months. You want to stop this cavity before it has a chance to hit your nerves and develop an infection. The sooner you catch these cavities, the better your chances of avoiding the root canals. Taking regular X-rays can help your dentist detect dental problems early on to treat them more conservatively and ultimately this will only benefit you.
helpful hint – It seems that insurance companies are generally in agreeance with the 6 month rule. They typically cover a set of checkup X-rays, usually 6 or 8 of them, on every six month checkup. I guess they also figured that if a cavity is caught at this early stage before it has a chance to hit the nerve, it will save them some money as well!
2. High risk individuals will develop problems at an accelerated rate. Those of you at higher risk for dental problems can easily develop a new problem within six months and new X-rays will help detect these problems in their earlier stages.
- If you aren’t brushing or flossing as well as you should be, if you consume too much sugars or if you have any other condition that puts you at increased risk of developing dental problems
- Those that have a lot of existing dental work in their mouths are much more susceptible to recurrent cavities under their existing dental work and require more radiographs
- Those with more advanced gum disease have large gaps under their gums which make them much more susceptible to developing dental problems quickly
For children and teenagers we recommend X-rays every six months since they tend to consume more sugars and not be as compliant with brushing and flossing instructions. In fact even six months may be too long for some and something bad can happen in this short amount of time. A filling may leak and start hurting or a crown may develop a cavity underneath it and now requires a root canal before you know it. Anyone else who is considered a medium to high risk patient should have regular X-rays taken.
3. Treatments which may result from not taking an X-ray can require way more radiation. Receiving a crown, root canal, extraction or a dental implant will typically require multiple additional X-rays. To receive a dental implant or extract a tooth you may require a Panoramic X-ray which is the equivalent to dozens of normal dental X-rays. So if you are trying to minimize your exposure to radiation and end up with such a problem, then all your efforts have been in vain and you just ended up with the equivalent of over a decade of exposure to standard dental radiation!
Relax and understand that dental X-rays have very, very low levels of radiation and are extremely safe. Each X-ray has about the equivalent of 15 to 20 minutes of daily radiation exposure. So taking each X-rays make you 15 minutes older in terms of radiation exposure. You should be fine. Let the dentist take the 6 or 8 check-up X-rays he or she needs to prevent more complicated problems from arising. The more effective idea in reducing radiation exposure is sticking with the same dentist long term so you don’t have to take a full set of X-rays each time you are switching.