Dental X-rays: Are They Safe and Necessary?

Dentists and hygienists are often asked about the safety and necessity of x-rays. This is a great question – with answers that differ from patient to patient.

So let’s examine it a bit further. You may be surprised to learn just how safe today’s x-rays are, and which audience asks this question even more so than patients.

X-ray Safety Is Always Being Tested

So, who asks this question more often than patients? Would you believe, dentists? That’s right!

Together with the FDA (Food & Drug Administration), the American Dental Association (ADA) routinely asks this question, and revises its guidelines when advances in science and technology provide new methods to reduce exposure.

In fact, thanks to faster film speeds, digital x-rays, and the use of protective aprons and thyroid collars, the x-ray of today is far superior to those of even just a decade ago.

Below are the general guidelines the ADA and FDA recommend for adults.

It’s important to remember that because all dental care is patient-specific, these guidelines are to be used to accompany the professional opinion of your dentist. Only your dentist has knowledge of your health history and vulnerability to oral disease, and is in the best position to make such recommendations.

New Patients:

Full x-rays are generally suggested for new patients to provide your dentist with a full history of your prior oral care and current needs.

Continuing Care Patients:

One set of x-rays every 12 months.

Continuing Care Patient with periodontal disease:

Dependent upon the professional judgment of your dentist.

Patients with a toothache or other dental problem:

A single x-ray, often referred to as a PA, is taken to help diagnose the problem.

Patients with, but not limited to, proposed or existing implants and root canals:

Dependent upon the professional judgement of your dentist.

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