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When Should Patients Have Dental X-Rays Taken?


X-rays are one of the most common dental procedures in the United States, and they're nothing to be nervous about. Sometimes a simple visual examination isn't enough, and a dentist might recommend a patient have an x-ray to diagnose a condition. Dentists use x-rays to identify tooth decay, cavities, slow tooth development and other problems. But how often should patients have dental x-rays taken? Read on to find out.

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What are the Benefits of Dental X-Rays?

Nearly half of all American adults aged 30 or older — that's around 65 million people — show signs of gum disease. Moreover, one in four adults has untreated cavities. Often, dentists identify these common problems during a visual examination. Sometimes, however, dentists need to inspect a patient's teeth and gums in closer detail. X-rays allow them to do this.

Dental x-rays can also identify the following:

  • A patient's general oral health, including brushing habits.
  • The current state of a patient's teeth, gums, and jawline.
  • Bone density.
  • Jaw growth and development.
  • Slow tooth development.
  • Impacted teeth.


Both children and adults have dental x-rays. An x-ray machine will provide dentists with high-quality images of the inside of a patient's mouth, and they will keep these images on file for future reference.

Some patients worry about having their x-rays taken, but the procedure is typically painless. Dentists should talk about the x-ray procedure with their patients, though, according to the American Dental Association. "The ADA encourages dentists and patients to discuss dental treatment recommendations, including the need for x-rays, to make informed decisions together," they say on their website.

There's a common perception that x-rays are dangerous, but this is hardly true.

"While dental x-rays do involve radiation, the exposed levels are so low that they’re considered safe for children and adults," says Healthline. "If your dentist uses digital x-rays instead of developing them on film, your risks from radiation exposure are even lower."

How Often Should Patients Have X-Rays?

This depends on the patient. Some people require x-rays every six months; others have x-rays every few years.

"Everyone's oral health varies, and as a result, the dentist will evaluate your needs and recommend an x-ray schedule accordingly," says the Colgate Oral Care Center. "If you're a new patient, the dentist may advise taking a full series of x-rays or panoramic image to assess your current oral health state, and use this as a baseline going forward."

What are the Benefits of Having X-Rays on a Regular Basis?

Cavities and other tooth-related conditions often develop fast. If left untreated, these can be painful and make the problem worse. Regular dental x-rays, however, identify tooth and gum-related issues quickly. As a result, a dentist can recommend the right course of treatment to the patient.

The entire x-ray process is quick and easy. A dentist will place an x-ray machine in front of a patient's head and record images of his or her mouth. A dentist will then analyze the x-ray images and provide feedback to the patient.

Dentists use x-rays to evaluate a patient's oral health. This procedure provides them with a comprehensive overview of the state of a patient's teeth and gums. Having x-rays on a regular basis can benefit a patient and allow dentists to identify dental problems quickly. 

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