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:
- Do you currently have gum disease or have had a history of advanced gum disease in the past?
- Do you have a lot of existing fillings, crowns or other dental work on your teeth?
- Do you have one or more missing tooth?
- Do you skip out on brushing your teeth occasionally?
- Do you sometimes go a few days without flossing your teeth?
- 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
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.