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How Often Should You Get Dental X-rays?

Some oral health problems can be detected only with X-rays.

close up of dental x-rays, how often you should get dental x-rays

Bone loss, gum disease, and certain infections are often not visually apparent during an exam. In addition, you might not have any symptoms of an existing problem. How often do you need dental X-rays? The answer depends on many factors.

When to Get Dental X-rays

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the frequency of getting dental X-rays depends on factors such as the following:

  • Your overall medical history. Many general health problems have roots in your oral health.
  • Your dental history, oral hygiene habits, and evidence of any symptoms of a problem.
  • Your patient status. Are you a new patient or has it been a long time since your last dental exam?
  • Ongoing dental issues.
  • Inclusion in a high-risk group for dental problems.

You should get dental X-rays either every six months or every three years, depending on the state of your dental health and how much dental work you have had done. Children and teenagers may need more frequent X-rays.

Are you among those at high risk for dental issues?

High-Risk People and Activities

The Cleveland Clinic’s website lists groups and behaviors that may place you at high risk for dental issues. If you consume lots of sugary drinks, you are at high risk for dental problems. Smokers are more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers. People who have had dental procedures in the past need X-rays more often to check for tooth decay. Age is also a factor; children are always growing, including their teeth and jaws. Children are also “more likely to be affected by tooth decay than adults,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.

A dry mouth is irritating, but this condition might indicate a larger problem. The American Dental Association’s (ADA) Mouth Healthy website states, “Dry mouth — also called xerostomia — results from an inadequate flow of saliva. It is not a disease, but a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of certain medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers, diuretics, and many others.” Saliva production is crucial to good mouth health; saliva combats the negative effects of acidic food and drinks, and it helps prevent tooth decay.

Benefits of Dental X-rays

Preventive care and early detection are essential to the effective management of many health issues. Your dental well-being is no exception. Detecting problems before they worsen will increase the chances of successful treatment. Identifying bone loss, tooth decay, and infections early gives you and your dentist more options. You’ll also save money and lessen any pain or discomfort associated with the condition.

WebMD states that dental X-rays can show diseases of the mouth, including the teeth and gums, that would otherwise go undetected. These diseases include potentially serious conditions such as the following:

  • An abscess, or infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth
  • Areas of decay that are not visually detectable
  • Infections
  • Cysts and tumors

Don’t procrastinate any longer; dental X-rays are vital to your overall health. Dental care is expensive, especially surgery and treatment of chronic conditions. Purchase a dental insurance plan so that you and your family won’t have to keep delaying dentist visits.

Are Dental X-rays Safe?

The ADA’s Mouth Healthy website explains, “Dental X-ray exams are safe; however, they do require very low levels of radiation exposure, which makes the risk of potentially harmful effects very small.”

Improvements in X-ray technology and techniques have made limiting a patient’s exposure to radiation possible. Precautions such as wearing protective aprons and collars should be used when possible. Let your dentist know if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. However, “Dental X-rays do not need to be delayed if you are trying to become pregnant or are breast-feeding.” Discuss any concerns you may have with your dentist or health care practitioner before the exam.

Oral Health Is Linked to Other Conditions

The Mayo Clinic reports that poor dental care may contribute to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and endocarditis. Periodontitis in pregnant women could lead to premature birth. The clinic advises that you should practice the following habits:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles fray.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
  • Avoid tobacco use.

Remember that dental health is as important to your well-being as any other medical concern. Getting regular dental X-rays can benefit your overall oral health.

Image via Flickr by brownpau

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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