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

How to Decide?

Answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have a lot of existing fillings?
  2. Do you a history of gum disease?
  3. Do you have several crowns in your mouth?
  4. Do you have missing teeth?
  5. Do you skip out on brushing or flossing your teeth on some occasions ?
  6. Do you consume too much processed sugars, such as candies, sweets, chocolates, sodas, etc.

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions then you should consider having X-rays taken every 6 months along with your exam and cleaning.

If you answered “no” to all of the above questions then you are a good candidate for taking X-rays every other visit. Note that you have to be your own advocate here as most dentists won’t offer you this option on their own. Also don’f forget that the assistants may be automatically programmed to take X-rays every six month so you may have to let the staff and assistants know that you have discussed taking X-rays once a year and are there only for a cleaning and check-up only.

Final Thought

We prefer taking regular X-rays to help avoid any potential serious dental problems. Dental X-rays have very low levels of radiation and most dentists only take a few X-rays every six months. A full set of X-rays which consists or 16 to 20+ X-rays is usually only reserved for the new patients so sticking with the same dentist helps reduce your exposure. Keep in mind that 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 having missed it due to lack of sufficient X-rays. You will now require a whole bunch of X-rays for the root canal and even more for the extraction or dental implant. It is best to take those few recall X-rays regularly to help avoid these more serious problems.

helpful hint – Keep in mind that if you want to reduce radiation you need to be careful when switching dentists. Your new dentist will require a full set of X-rays to allow him or her to treat you. If you are switching dentists, consider obtaining a copy of your most current X-rays with you to allow the new dentist to skip having to take a full set of X-rays. But if you haven’t been to the dentist in a few years you will require new X-rays regardless, so don’t go through the troubles of obtaining these X-rays as they will not really help much any longer.

NEXT >> How Often Should You Take Dental X-rays: On Every 6 Month Checkup

How Often Should You Take Dental X-rays: Every Other Checkup (Once a Year)

How Often Should You Take Dental X-rays: Every Other Checkup (Once a Year)

1. Less exposure to radiation. Dental radiographs do expose you to some levels of radiation. Each X-rays equates to about 15 to 20 minute of regular daily radiation exposure and while that is not a lot, it’s still something.

helpful hint – Digital X-rays, the ones that go directly into the computer and bypass the need for films, expose you to even less radiation levels. So a thumbs up to your dentist if he or she is using digital X-rays.

2. Low risk patients don’t require X-rays as frequently. If you have excellent teeth and gums you may opt to have less X-rays taken. You can opt to go for once a year instead of 6 months, but we can’t recommend going any less than once a year without taking serious risks to your teeth or gums. Here are the conditions that make you a very low risk patient eligible for X-rays only once a year.

  • No history of gum disease
  • You have excellent oral hygiene and brush and floss diligently on a daily basis
  • Very little to no history of dental work, maybe just a few small fillings at most

3. History of cancer or other concerning 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.

helpful hint – When pregnant, you must skip routine X-rays and only take them for emergency pain situations. You could still receive your scheduled dental cleanings with your dentist if they have current X-rays on file. Keep in mind that the ideal time to receive dental treatment during pregnancy, if you must, is the 2nd trimester.

NEXT >> How to Decide

How Often Should You Take Dental X-rays: On Every 6 Month Checkup

How Often Should You Take Dental X-rays: On Every 6 Month Checkup

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 rateThose 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.

NEXT >> Every Other Checkup (Once a Year)

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