The question of how frequently you should be getting dental x-rays is one that cannot be answered simply. There are many factors that impact how often you will need x-rays, including your age and your dental health. Though many patients dread the cost associated with dental x-rays, they are the most effective tool dentists have to determine the extent of dental damage or gum disease, both of which cannot always be fully assessed by eyesight alone.
Read on for an overview of the two main factors which impact your need for dental x-rays.
Dental X-Ray Frequency Factor 1: Age
Children require more frequent dental x-rays because their teeth are in a constant state of flux; this rapid pace of change must be monitored. In addition, their teeth are smaller, so more susceptible to decay. It is not uncommon for dentists to recommend yearly x-rays for kids and teens. In addition, the folks at Colgate point out that “children and teens who have a history of many cavities may need X-rays every six months… So may those who have a high risk of decay for other reasons.”
Adults who have generally good oral health can go much longer between x-rays. As this New York Times post points out, “People who see a dentist regularly and have good oral hygiene and no current dental problems might need bitewing X-rays of molars only every two to three years to check for early cavities, said Dr. Aruna Ramesh, director of the oral and maxillofacial radiology division at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston.” You can also expect your dentist to recommend a more thorough, in-depth x-ray every 3-5 years or so.
Dental X-Ray Frequency Factor 2: Dental History & Oral Health
A variety of oral health problems may prompt a dentist to recommend more frequent x-rays. For example, if you are cavity-prone and have had many fillings in your adult life, your dentist may do x-rays more often to check for issues beneath your fillings or to diagnose cavities that are developing and stop them in their tracks. If you have a history of gum disease, you can likewise expect your dentist to recommend more frequent x-rays to monitor bone loss.
For a helpful overview of what you can expect your dentist to recommend, check out this chart created by WebMD, And remember, if you’re concerned about how frequently you should be getting dental x-rays, your best resource is your dentist!