How Often Should You Receive a Dental X-Ray Examination?

How often dental X-rays, also known as radiographs, should be taken depends on your individual health needs.

A dental X-ray examination can reveal damage to oral structures not visible during a regular exam. Among the problems that can be detected by a radiograph examination are small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings, infections in the bone, periodontal disease, abscesses or cysts, developmental abnormalities and some types of tumors. Finding and treating such dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.

It is important to recognize that just as each patient is different from the next, so should the scheduling of X-ray examinations be individualized for each patient. Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and then decide if you need radiographs and what type.

If you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to determine the present status of the hidden areas of your mouth and to help analyze changes that may occur later. If you have had recent radiographs at your previous dentist, your new dentist may ask you to have the radiographs forwarded.

The schedule for receiving radiograph examinations at recall visits varies according to your age, risk for disease, and signs and symptoms. Recent radiographs may be needed to detect new cavities, determine the status of periodontal disease or evaluate growth and development.

Children may need X-ray examinations more often than adults because children's teeth and jaws are still developing and are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults.

To learn more about dental X-ray examinations, visit the American Dental Association Web site at

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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X-RAY Procedure

X-rays are typically performed in the office of a dentist or dental specialist. Here is what to expect:

  1. Preparation – first a dental professional will cover you with a heavy lead apron to protect your body from the radiation. Next the dental professional will insert a small apparatus, made of plastic, into your mouth and ask you to bite down on it.

  2. Execution – the technician will then proceed to take an X-ray picture of the targeted area. This process is pain-free and will be repeated until images have been obtained for your entire mouth.