Do I Need Dental X-Rays Every 6 Months? An Expert's Guide

As a patient, you may have heard your dentist say that you need dental x-rays every 6 months. But is this really necessary? The American Dental Association (ADA) says no, and you might not either. Adults with no apparent dental problems do not need dental x-rays of any kind every year, according to the ADA. Adults who take proper care of their teeth and have no symptoms of oral diseases or tooth decay can go two to three years between bite X-rays.Adults at high risk of tooth decay (such as those with a history of tooth decay) should receive tooth decay at least every 18 months and possibly more frequently, depending on the condition of their teeth and gums.

The interval between x-rays is determined by the rate at which cavities develop. It usually takes about two years or more for cavities to penetrate the enamel of adult teeth. The pace is faster for children, so the recommended bite intervals are shorter for them.However, children with properly spaced primary (baby) teeth without cavities don't need any dental x-rays. Older children with a low propensity for tooth decay may go 18 months to three years between each X-ray.

People at higher risk may need them more often.X-rays help dentists see cavities, gum disease, the position of teeth that are still below the gumline, and other dental conditions that aren't visible to the naked eye. Other types of dental and orthodontic imaging, such as full mouth, full head, panographs, or 3D cone beam computed tomography, reveal more. However, dentists tend to abuse them. Friedman, a dentist who advises Consumer Reports on dental issues, has been warning about the overuse of dental imaging since the 1970s.Other x-rays used for orthodontic treatments, wisdom tooth extraction and implants, such as cephalographs (lateral x-ray of the skull and jaws) or 3D computed tomography with a cone beam, are not routinely needed, according to Dr.

A study found that while X-ray images increase orthodontists' confidence in their diagnoses and treatment plans, the vast majority of plans are made before they are seen.All x-rays can be harmful, although the radiation dose of bites is relatively low. Of all the medical radiation patients receive, dental x-rays account for less than 3 percent. But radiation damage is cumulative. Each X-ray increases the risk of damage that can cause cancer.

An unnecessary bite or other dental x-ray is unnecessary damage.Scintigraphy provides the same radiation dose as six traditional dental x-rays, and there is only limited evidence of greater diagnostic or treatment value than images with lower radiation. Although dental x-rays emit a relatively low dose of radiation compared to other medical images, a study involving more than 2,700 patients seemed to find an association with a higher risk of intracranial meningioma, the most common type of brain tumor (when exposure to X-ray radiation was greater than in the current era). Patients with a tumor were twice as likely as patients without one to have had a bite X-ray.One limitation of the study is that its findings were based on patients' recall of dental x-rays, not on more objective medical data, which are not available. However, the study is consistent with previous, smaller studies that documented a higher risk of tumors associated with dental x-rays.The American Dental Association recommends going to the dentist twice a year (that is, every 6 months).

The fact that someone has a lot of fillings in their mouth is an indication of a possible high risk that could justify taking x-rays more often. However, this should be based on an individual's history that goes back more than 10 years.If I had taken regular x-rays as a teenager I might not have had a root canal or a crown today. It would have saved me a lot of money as well. To reduce your risk from unnecessary radiation exposure it's important to talk to your dentist about how often you need dental x-rays.If x-rays are so safe why does a patient have to wear a lead apron and protect themselves around the neck against thyroid cancer because of the X-rays? Two years ago I changed my interval for bite X-rays from every year to every two years because for two years in a row I had multiple X-rays taken by different dentists.

The general rule is that you should not have X-rays unless it is absolutely necessary for developing a treatment plan.I went to 4 different dentists in 6 months and each one did an X-ray or more than one. Now I have a lump with a very painful spot on my gum where one X-ray was taken. I showed this to two dentists; one said she was unable to help me and referred me back to my endodontist who did my root canal treatment if it didn't heal. The extra X-rays were due to incompetence and I've had too many due to technical incompetence.They sent me to another dentist for another 2 more x-rays and then they sent me to another dentist for a panoramic X-ray.

In general, the amount of radiation you receive from dental x-rays is relatively small compared to other medical images but it's important to talk to your dentist about how often you need them.

Madison Bew
Madison Bew

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