One of the most common questions I hear from patients is how often they need to have dental x-rays. The first thing to understand is that there are many different types of dental x-rays, they show different areas of the teeth and jaws and therefore are used to diagnose different problems. The answer to how often x-rays need to be taken will be different depending on the purpose of the x-ray. The frequency also varies depending upon your personal dental risk factors. Patients who have a higher risk of gum disease will have the x-rays taken to diagnose the bone levels around the teeth more frequently. In the same way patients who get cavities more often should have the x-rays that show the areas between teeth called Bitewings taken more often. Usually the concern is about radiation exposure. All modern digital dental x-rays expose you to very low levels of radiation. we receive more radiation sitting and watching television for a few hours. The risks of not having the x-rays taken can be significant like a cavity that grows and causes the loss of a tooth or the need for a root canal, or an infection around the root of a tooth that goes untreated. We are always happy to talk about the x-rays we are recommending, why we think they are in your best interest and the pros and cons of taking them versus waiting.
Panoramic X-ray: Taken usually with the patient standing and the x-ray machine rotates around your head. This image is used for locating wisdom teeth, making sure children have all of their adult teeth and looking at the structure of the upper and lower jaws. Typically a panorex will be recommended at about age 6-8, again at age 16-20 and as a screening to ensure health of the jaws.
Bite Wing X-rays: These images are taken by placing a plastic holder inside your mouth and having you bite down to hold it in place. They show equal parts of the upper and lower teeth, and are used to check for cavities between the teeth and the level of bone between the teeth. They can be taken in sets of 4-7 images depending on whether the front teeth are included. These x-rays are normally taken every 12-24 months.
Peri-Apical X-ray: This x-ray is taken to look at the roots of the teeth that are inside the jaw bones. These images are used to check for abcesses, or infections at the end of the root of the tooth and root fractures.
Full Mouth Series: This is a series that combines Bite Wing X-ryas and Per-apicals. Commonly this will be recommended when you come in as a new patient to ensure the complete health of the teeth, bone and gum tissues. Once you are an established patient a full series will be recommended every 3-7 years depending on your individual risk factors.
Come Beam CT: This is a newer image we obtain for dental patients. The x-ray is taken by having you sit in a seat and the machine rotates around your head. The image allows us to see all of the anatomy of the teeth and jaws in fine detail, and create a three dimensional reconstruction. This is x-ray is recommended prior to having dental implants and braces.