How often do I need dental x-rays?

A frequent question we hear is, “Doctor, how often do I need dental x-rays?” The guiding principle in radiation is ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable). What ALARA means in lay terms: as infrequent as possible to still achieve excellent diagnosis and care.

Many patients comment that their insurance policy allows (or doesn’t allow) for a specific interval for x-rays. Their policy has to do with what the insurance company designates as ‘reasonable’ (often termed ‘usual and customary’), based on premiums and costs, NOT on a clinical examination and evaluation of a patient’s individual circumstances and needs. Dentists must apply clinical judgment in deciding when and what type of radiologic (x-ray) examination to prescribe to optimize each patient’s oral health.

There is no recommended frequency for panoramic radiograph (x-ray) or full-mouth surveys (FMX). The decision to repeat a panoramic radiograph or FMX should be based solely on the individual patient’s needs (not on the frequency allowed in the dental insurance contract). The only imaging examination with a frequency recommendation is the bitewing, and its frequency based on an assessment of the patient’s caries (decay) risk. In summary, the clinical decision is:

  • Based on findings from the patient history and the clinical examination
  • Tailored to the needs of the individual patient
  • Influenced by the patient’s risk of dental disease
  • Supported by the dentist’s knowledge of disease progression and utility of various imaging techniques

Additionally, some factors the dentist considers in deciding when to prescribe radiographs are:

  • Health status of a new or established patient
  • Date and availability of the most recent prior radiographs
  • Patient age and stage of dental development
  • Risk of dental caries (decay)
  • Clinical evidence of periodontitis (gum disease)
  • Number of teeth and desire for prosthodontics care
  • Pain, swelling or other signs or symptoms of dental disease

If you have more detailed questions about your particular circumstances, please contact Dr. Mastrovich and our helpful office team at 760-741-6650 and www.MastrovichDental.com

We welcome your comments and general questions below, and we will try to answer as many as possible here in our Ask the Dentist blog.

Photo credit reuters.com

Share