Tag Archives: Dental X-rays

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!


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

How Often Should You Take Dental X-rays: Every 6 Months

How Often Should You Take Dental X-rays

Dental radiographs

Most of us have no problems going to the dentist twice a year to get our cleaning and checkup. After all, it makes sense to have an exam and dental cleaning every six months to prevent cavities and gum disease from occurring. But what about dental X-rays? Do you really need to take X-rays every six months? Can dental problems really come up that quickly to justify taking X-rays every 6 months?  Or is it better to take dental X-rays just once a year on every other checkup?

Are dental X-rays dangerous?

Dental X-rays have very low radiation

Dental X-rays are actually very safe. Standard dental X-rays have very, very low levels of radiation and are extremely safe. To put it in perspective, each individual dental X-ray has about the equivalent of 15 to 20 minutes of daily radiation exposure. In other words, taking each X-ray makes you 15 minutes older in terms of radiation exposure. Digital X-rays are actually even safer and expose you to less radiation than do traditional X-rays. To put it in better perspective, a single chest X-ray contains 10,000 times as much radiation exposure as an individual dental X-ray does. So don’t worry too much about dental X-rays and let your dentist take the required X-rays to prevent more complicated problems in the future. The wise way to reduce your radiation exposure is to stick with the same dentist long term, this way you don’t have to take a full set of X-rays each time you switch dentists!

Advantages of taking dental X-rays every 6 months

It is routine to take X-rays during your 6 month exam and checkup appointment. Most dental insurance plans allow checkup X-rays every 6 months, because it lets your dentist catch cavities before they get larger. Here are some other benefits of taking frequent X-rays of your teeth:

New dental problems can occur in as little as just a few months

New cavities can develop within just a few months. There is always the chance that a new or recurring cavity starts to show up on your X-rays within as little as six months. Your dentist wants to catch this cavity before it has a chance to hit your nerves and develop into an infection. As a result, the sooner he or she catches the cavity, the better your chances of avoiding a crown, root canal or dental implant! Taking regular X-rays helps your dentist detect dental problems early on and treat them in their earlier stages. This lets your receive more conservative treatment and ultimately benefits you.

High risk individuals can develop dental problems rapidly

Individuals with high risk can easily develop a new dental problem in six months or even less. Taking X-rays every 6 months helps detect these problems in their earlier stages, before they have had a chance to become painful!

  • If you aren’t brushing or flossing as well as you should, if you consume too much sugars or if you have other conditions that place you at increased risk of developing dental problems, then you should take X-rays every 6 months.
  • Individuals with lots of existing dental work in their mouths are much more susceptible to recurrent cavities. Cavities can from under existing dental work and cause root canals or broken teeth in just a few months. It is highly recommended to take X-rays every 6 months if you have lots of existing dental work.
  • Those with advanced stages of gum disease have large gaps between their teeth which makes them much more susceptible to developing dental problems. Taking X-rays every 6 months allows your dentist to look for cavities as well as monitor your gum disease over time.

For children and teenagers, dentists usually recommend X-rays every six months. Children tend to consume more sugary products, are not as compliant with brushing and flossing and tend to have more difficulty due to their growing jaws and mixed baby and adult teeth. In fact, even every 6 months may be too long for some children and new problems come up in this short time period. Generally speaking, anyone who is considered to be a medium to high risk patient should take X-rays every six months.

Bigger treatments typically require more radiation exposure

A dental filling doesn’t usually require taking any additional X-rays. On the other hand, crowns, root canals, tooth extractions and dental implants typically require multiple additional X-rays. In fact, to receive a single root canal or dental implant you require a Panoramic X-ray which has much more radiation than your typical dental X-rays does. If your objective is to minimize your exposure to radiation, all your efforts are going to be a wash should you end up with a single root canal or tooth extraction! Take your regular X-rays, it will spare you the additional radiation, and it will cost you much less!

NEXT >> Taking X-rays every other checkup (once a year)

How to decide on how often you should take your dental X-rays