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Robert C. Clay, Jr., DDS, Ltd.

How often do I need X-rays?

The use of dental X-rays has been a vital component of the diagnostic capabilities in dentistry since they were first invented.   While the first x-ray systems required a lot of radiation to produce relatively poor quality images, modern digital (computer based) x-ray sensors require only a fraction of the radiation that was needed by early X-rays and produce very detailed images that can be manipulated on the computer.  We use these low dose X-rays in our office to produce the best and safest radiographic images possible. To answer the question as to how often you should get X-rays, there are several factors to consider.  First off, there is a general guideline of recommended intervals that has been presented by the American Dental Association.  Second, there is a frequency limitation established by insurance companies.  I will start with the insurance limitations and say that insurance companies each have their own guidelines for the frequency that they will cover X-rays, and we always try to adhere to these limitations so out of pocket costs are minimized; however, the insurance limitations may not be appropriate for every patient’s needs.  Insurance companies are businesses and they help pay for dental treatment, but they don’t always pay for the treatment that best fits your case.  Therefore, it is important to consider what is best instead of what is covered. The ADA’s recommendations are a set of guidelines to use to determine how often X-rays should be taken on adolescents as well as adults.  We use these guidelines to help determine when, which, and how many X-rays should be taken. 


Routine screening X-rays are useful tools to help us catch problems at the earliest stages. It is important for us to utilize them even when there is no obvious problems or pain that a patient may feel. Because every patient’s needs and history is different, we evaluate each patient to determine what is right for them.  When there is a history of decay, or recent active decay, we may opt to take X-rays more often so we can catch problems in their early stages.  On the other hand, for those with little or no decay, we may take X-rays less often. It is still important, however, to take X-rays so that not only tooth decay can be found at its earliest stages, but also to detect signs of periodontal disease, abscesses in teeth and bone, cysts, cancerous tumors, or many other abnormalities that are better caught at early stages. 


Like most things in life, X-rays are not a one size fits all tool, and we will customize our recommendations to meet your needs.  We are always happy to see you to discuss this and help you keep your healthy and happy smile

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