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When to Get Dental X-Rays

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, which can potentially save you money, unnecessary discomfort, and maybe even your life.

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

In children, dental X-rays are used to:

  • Watch for decay
  • Determine if there is enough space in the mouth to fit all incoming teeth
  • Determine if primary teeth are being lost quickly enough to allow permanent teeth to come in properly
  • Check for the development of wisdom teeth and identify if the teeth are impacted (unable to emerge through the gums)

How Often Should Teeth Be X-Rayed?

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.

Some general guidelines your dentist may follow regarding the frequency of dental X-rays is as follows:

Dental X-Ray Schedule for Children, Adolescents, and Adults

  New patients Repeat patient, high risk (decay is present) Repeat patient, no decay, not at high risk for decay Current or history of gum disease Other comments
Children (before eruption of first tooth) X-rays if the teeth are touching and all surfaces cannot be visualized or probed X-rays taken every 6 months until no decay is present X-rays taken every 12 to 24 months if the teeth are touching and all surfaces cannot be visualized or probed X-rays of areas where disease is seen in the mouth X-rays to check for growth and development are usually not indicated at this age
Adolescents (before eruption of wisdom teeth) A full series of X-rays is indicated when there is evidence of dental disease or history of extensive decay. X-rays taken every 6 to 12 months until no decay is present X-rays taken every 18 to 36 months X-rays of areas where disease is seen in the mouth X-rays should be taken to check for development of wisdom teeth
Adults with teeth A full series of X-rays is indicated when there is evidence of dental disease or history of extensive decay. X-rays taken every 12 to 18 months X-rays taken every 24 to 36 months X-rays of areas where disease is seen in the mouth X-rays to check for growth and development are usually not indicated.
Adults without teeth X-rays are usually not indicated unless specific dental disease is clinically present.        

WebMD Medical Reference

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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