Dental Tips Blog


How Often Does My Dentist Need to Take X-Rays?

Posted in Digital X-Rays

Do you have a toothache? Are you seeing your dentist for a routine check-up? You’ve probably found yourself asking “Do I need more x-rays? I just had some last time I was here.” If so, you’re not alone. It’s a great question and one that dentists get fairly often.

There are a couple of different types of intra-oral x-rays, each of which show very different things to your dentist:

Bitewings: These x-rays are usually taken once a year at your routine dental cleanings. For some people they may be taken more frequently if they have a high risk and vulnerability to tooth decay. Bitewing x-rays show the areas between several of your teeth, so that the areas typically affected by cavities and tartar buildup can be spotted easily. This allows your dentist to monitor suspicious areas and catch them as soon as possible, preventing major dental treatment later on.

Periapicals: This type of film focuses on only one or two teeth, and shows the entire length of your root, as well as the bone around your root. PAs are necessary during root canal therapy, at an emergency appointment, or to check problematic teeth for signs of infection and bone loss.

Other full mouth types of dental x-rays are taken every 3-5 years, to provide your dentist with a comprehensive look at your overall oral health. These FMX sets or Panoramic x-rays show all of the teeth in the mouth as well as some surrounding anatomical structures.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Michael Juban, Juban Dental Care



What do Dental X-rays Really Show?

Are dental x-rays absolutely necessary to providing comprehensive dental care to patients? What do they show on a small film or digital screen that a dentist cannot see visually inside of the mouth?

Bone Loss

Areas of gum disease also suffer bone loss due to the level of infection in the area. The more severe the bone loss, the more likely the stability of the tooth is to be compromised. Levels of bone are easily visible on dental x-rays and allow your dentist and hygienist to monitor the bone height from one appointment to the next. This helps them decide on treatment methods and see how your body is responding to therapy already received.


Yes, there are areas of tooth decay that a dentist cannot se by simply looking in your mouth. X-rays show the areas between the teeth, which is one of the most common places to develop tooth decay. Routine x-rays allow the decay to be caught in its earliest stage, so that treatment can be less invasive.

Missing, Impacted, or Extra Teeth

The eruption pattern of your teeth plays a significant role in the appearance, health and function of your smile. X-rays are frequently used to evaluate the eruption or orthodontic needs of patients by identifying teeth that are out of place. The earlier these areas are identified, the easier it is to correct them or have a plan of action that compromises for the given situation.


Large panoramic x-rays allow your dentist to screen the entire mouth, jaw, TMJ and sinus areas. Abnormalities such as cysts, infections, disorders or other severe lesions can frequently be identified on these large films, which are typically taken once every 3-5 years.

Posted on behalf of Juban Dental Care



When Are Dental X-Rays Needed?

It’s not uncommon to hear dental patients ask about x-rays when they visit the office. Most people wonder when they are needed, especially if they come back to the treatment area to have new ones done, but remember having an x-ray taken at the last visit. To better explain when dental x-rays are needed, it’s important to let the patient know about the different types of x-rays and what they are used for:

Bitewing X-rays

Bitewing x-rays are 2 films for children and 4 films for adults. Bitewings are needed usually every 12 months for your dentist to screen for developing tooth decay between your back teeth. Bitewings can also screen for bone loss.

Periapical X-rays

Periapical films show the entire length of the tooth, from crown to below the root. Periapicals are used to check for trauma, abscess, bone loss, infection, root canal treatment or other evaluation of the root area. Periapical films are taken as needed, usually for limited exams of specific treatments to specific teeth at the time of the appointment.

Full Mouth Series X-rays (FMX)

An FMX is usually taken once every 3-5 years and is a combination of bitewing x-rays and periapical films. An FMX is most often taken at your first dental appointment for your dentist to perform a fully comprehensive examination.

Occlusal X-rays

Occlusal films are taken on small children to evaluate the eruption of their anterior teeth.

Panoramic X-rays

Panos are usually taken every 3-5 years to evaluate tooth eruption, jawbone, anatomy, pathology or wisdom tooth problems.

X-ray frequency can also be adjusted based on your dental history. Some people need to be monitored more closely due to weak teeth or older restorations, while other people with perfect teeth may need films taken less frequently.


Are Dental X-rays Safe?

Many people understand why dental x-rays are a routine part of their preventive care appointment. After all, then enable dental practitioners to identify developing dental diseases like bone loss, dental abscesses, early tooth decay and many others in order to provide care at an earlier point in time. Early intervention to dental decay reduces the extent that the tooth needs to be treated, and keeps treatment costs minimal as well.

However, many patients are highly concerned with the safety in regard to exposure to the x-ray beams, and rightly so. In this modern day in age we are exposed to many different environments so we want to be sure we are protecting our health in the best way possible.

The x-rays used in a dental office use only minimal amounts of radioactive waves. Patients experience far more radiation from exposure to the sun in a single day than they do by having a set of dental x-rays taken. The only reason that dental staff leave the room during your x-ray exposure is because they can be exposed to cumulative radiation throughout time due to the number of patients they are taking films on. The benefits of dental x-rays far outweigh the risk of any minimal exposure that might occur.

If your office utilizes digital x-rays, you are receiving up to 90% less radiation than if they use traditional film technology. Because the digital technology is much more sensitive, it allows a lower dose of radiation to be used in order to recreate the same image. They’re also more convenient for referrals to specialists, attaching to claims for insurance purposes, or analyzing the findings with the patients.

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