Are you wondering if it's safe to get dental X-rays every 6 months? The answer depends on your medical and dental history, as well as your current condition. The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that adults with good oral health and low risk of dental problems should have X-rays taken at intervals of 24 to 36 months. However, some people may need X-rays up to every six months, while others who don't have any recent dental or gum disease and who visit the dentist regularly may have X-rays only every two years. If you're a new patient, your dentist can take X-rays as part of the initial exam and establish a reference record from which to compare changes that may occur over time.
The ADA guidelines give dentists great flexibility in making judgments about the frequency of X-rays. Patients with recurrent tooth decay and other complicated problems may need X-rays once or twice a year, while those with optimal dental health can go two to three years between X-rays. Full X-rays are also common in preparation for many dental procedures, such as extractions and root smoothing. Stuart White, professor emeritus at the UCLA School of Dentistry, emphasizes that the key is for the dentist to evaluate each patient before having an X-ray.
This helps detect and treat dental problems early on, which can save you money, unnecessary hassle, and perhaps even your life. Basic intraoral X-ray images, in 3D or panoramic, will provide your dentist with valuable information about your teeth and gums and help you choose the best treatment for dental patients. Dental X-rays help dentists visualize diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissue that cannot be seen with a simple oral exam. It's impossible to sign a waiver that exempts your child's X-rays if they are needed to complete the diagnosis of an orthodontic problem and plan the best treatment needed.
Nicholas Dello Russo, professor in the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine, notes that the amount of exposure to radiation from an X-ray can vary depending on where the patient goes for dental or medical treatment. Meanwhile, the ADA notes that dental X-rays represent approximately 2.5% of the effective radiation dose received from all medical radiographs and fluoroscopies (medical X-ray imaging procedures). If you have a lot of fillings in your mouth or other indications of a possible high risk, it could justify having X-rays more frequently than recommended by the ADA. If you are pregnant and need to have an X-ray, the dental assistant will tell you to wear a lead apron on the front and a lead thyroid collar to protect vulnerable parts of the body.
Instead of projecting X-ray film into a dark room, modern technology allows for X-rays to be sent directly to a computer and can be viewed on the screen, stored, or printed.