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How often should my teeth be X-rayed?

What is dental x-ray?

Dental X-rays help dentists visualize diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissue that cannot be seen with a simple oral exam. In addition, X-rays help the dentist find and treat dental problems early in their development.


What Problems Can Dental X-Rays Detect?
In adults, dental X-rays can be used to:
Show areas of decay that may not be visible with an oral exam, especially small areas of decay between teeth
Identify decay occurring beneath an existing filling
Reveal bone loss that accompanies gum disease
Reveal changes in the bone or in the root canal resulting from infection
Assist in the preparation of tooth implants, braces, dentures, or other dental procedures
Reveal an abscess (an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth)
Reveal other developmental abnormalities, such as cysts and some types of tumors
How often should my teeth be X-rayed?
There is no set schedule for how often teeth need x-rays. It depends on how old you are, how healthy your teeth and gums are, and any symptoms such as tooth pain that you may have. Your dentist will examine your mouth and determine whether you need to have x-rays. Children tend to have x-rays more often than adults, because their teeth and jaws are still growing and because they also are more likely to have cavities.
The frequency of getting X-rays of your teeth often depends on your medical and dental history and current condition. Some people may need X-rays as often as every six months; others with no recent dental or gum disease and who visit their dentist regularly may get X-rays only every couple of years. If you are a new patient, your dentist may take X-rays as part of the initial exam and to establish a baseline record from which to compare changes that may occur over time.
If you have never seen a dentist then a full set of x-rays should initially be taken. After that it is dependent upon your dental and medical health. Some people may only need to take x-rays once every three years while others who seem to get a lot of cavities may need to be screened with a few x-rays every 6 months.
A new set of x-rays may be needed to help your dentist detect any new cavities, determine the status of your gum health or evaluate the growth and development of your teeth. If a previous dentist has any radiographs of you, your new dentist may ask you for copies of them. Ask both dentists to help you with forwarding your x-rays.
Current Technology
There's a newer dental X-ray technique that your dentist already may be using or may soon be using. It's called digital imaging. Instead of developing X-ray film in a dark room, the X-rays are sent directly to a computer and can be viewed on screen, stored, or printed out.
If you are concerned about radiation exposure due to X-rays, talk to your dentist about how often X-rays are needed and why they are being taken. While some people need X-rays taken more frequently, current guidelines require that X-rays be given only when needed for clinical diagnosis.
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