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 permanent 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.|| || || || |