How Often Should We Get Dental X-Rays

How Often Should We Get Dental X-Rays

How often should we get dental x-rays?  That is a dilemma that everyone that routinely visits the dentist faces.  Should it be twice a year?  Once a year? Every other year?

What is an x-ray anyway?  Well, without getting too technical, an x-ray is basically an electromagnetic wave of energy (radiation) that is high and short and therefore able to pass through many solid materials including your body.  When an x-ray image is taken it creates different shades of black and white depending on how much radiation has been absorbed.  The calcium in our body absorbs more radiation so that when images are taken our bones and teeth appear white on x-rays. The amount of radiation that one receives from dental x-rays is equivalent to a regular day outside.

In the field of dentistry the most common type of dental x-rays (aka radiographs) taken are called intraoral x-rays.  They take detailed picture of the teeth so that a dentist is able to determine their health status.

There are several types of intraoral x-rays.  In a bitewing x-ray, the film shows a detailed picture of the upper and xraylower teeth of a particular area of the mouth from the top of the crown down to the gum line.  This type of x-ray is what the dentist usually uses to determine any decay in between teeth and changes in any of the teeth bone density.   A periapical x-ray shows the entire tooth from its crown all the way down to its root.  These x-rays can usually tell a dentist if there is any abnormality in the root and the surrounding bone area.  An occlusal x-ray is larger and shows the full arch of teeth either on the upper or lower jaw area.

An external x-ray is not as commonly used because they are less detailed than the intraoral ones.  The panoramic x-ray is the most familiar type people know about.  It shows the entire upper and lower set of teeth in a single x-ray.  They’re used to detect impacted teeth, bone abnormalities, tumors, and fractures.

The majority of dentists nowadays opt to use digital x-ray imaging rather than traditional photographic film because it is time efficient.  There are no films to develop and the images can be saved on a computer for future references.  It is also easier for dentists to use because they can zoom the picture in and out without difficulty for a better diagnosis.   Studies also suggest less radiation when using digital x-ray imaging.

So?  How often should we be getting dental x-rays?  Well it’s one of those things where it depends on your particular situation.  The American Dental Association (ADA) advises dentist to evaluate each patient.  If an adult patient doesn’t show any history of dental problems then they are advised to get x-rays every two to three years.  If there is a history of dental problems then it is recommended they have x-rays taken 6-18 months depending on the severity of the problem.  If you don’t feel comfortable having dental x-rays as often as you do then definitely speak to your dentist.  He/She should be able to come up with a solution that the both of you would be comfortable with especially if you have a history of dental problems.

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