How often should x-rays be taken?

There are various types of the dental x-ray. Some of them show one or two teeth with their roots while others can take pictures of several teeth at once. The most frequent x-rays are small ones, which are regularly made to investigate the condition of the teeth and gums. Those X-rays show a few teeth at a time, including the roots and surrounding areas. There are large x-rays that show the whole mouth, including all the teeth and the bone structure that supports the teeth. These are called panoramic x-rays. There are medium-sized x-rays, showing either one jaw at a time or one side of the face. Now, there are also electronic ‘imaging' systems. Instead of x-ray films, electronic probes are used, and the picture is transmitted directly onto a screen.

How frequent to be getting X-rays of your teeth? It often takes into account your dental and medical history. Some people require X-rays as often as every six months. For others without dental or gum disease and who visit their dentist regularly may get X-rays only every couple of years. As a new patient, your dentist may require taking X-rays as part of the initial exam and to establish a baseline record from which to compare changes that may occur over time.

Here are some general guidelines your dental practitioner may take into account regarding the frequency of dental X-rays:

For a new patient, unless you have had dental x-rays very recently, the dental team will probably suggest having x-rays in their clinic. At the same time, to check for any hidden problems. After the completion of the checkup, x-rays may be recommended every half year to 2 years depending on the person and their history of decay. The X-rays are justified if the teeth are touching, and all surfaces cannot be visualized or probed. For the patient with high risk of caries, X-rays are taken every six months until no decay is present.

For children or adolescence, a full series of X-rays is indicated when there is evidence of dental disease or history of extensive decay. If they have previously had a high risk of dental decay, X-rays are taken rather frequently. For those with healthy dentition, X-rays were taken every 2 to 3 years.

Those high-risk of caries of other medical conditions need X-rays taken more frequently. For example, children need more X-rays than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing. This results in decay that can reach the tooth, dentin, quicker and spread faster. Adults with extensive restorative work, such as fillings to look for decay beneath existing fillings or in new locations. Take, for example, people the with periodontal (gum) disease to observe the progression of bone loss. Those individuals with sweet tooth and consume a lot of sugary beverages to look for tooth decay (since the sugary environment creates an ideal situation for cavities to develop). People who have dry mouth, also known as xerostomia -- whether due to medications or disease states (such as Sjögren's syndrome, damaged salivary glands, radiation treatment to head and neck). Dry mouth can lead to the development of dental caries in these patients. X-rays are also needed regularly for smokers to monitor bone loss resulting from periodontal disease (smokers are at increased risk of periodontal disease).

There are criteria to look at to determine the frequency of X-ray taking. Consult your dentist should there be any inquiries.