How Often Should I Take X-Rays?

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The question you asked is a very good one and one I answer frequently. Surprisingly, many dental and medical professionals don’t have the correct answer to this question, and lots of false information is out there. Here are the facts:

A child or adolescent should get dental X-rays only as often as necessary, and that frequency should be based on risk for cavities or Caries Risk Assessment, CRA. Caries Risk is based on a number of factors including past cavity experience, hygiene, disability, saliva quality, brushing habits, diet, plaque score and weak area found on a dental exam. The dentist should categorize a child’s risk into low, medium or high.

For high-risk or medium-risk children, X-rays that look in between the teeth for cavities or bitewings are useful every six months to find new problems and help dictate prevention success and strategies.

A child with good hygiene – but a filled cavity six months ago – would warrant X-rays at a 6-month visit.

A child with a cavity two years ago – but poor hygiene and a weak spot on the front teeth – would warrant X-rays at a 6-month interval.

For low-risk children and teenagers, screening X-rays should be only taken every year or eighteen months. Cavities in baby teeth can spread from a weak spot to inside the tooth in about one year on average; for adult teeth, this time is about 2-3 years. Taking X-rays at one half that time interval should be plenty to prevent big problems.

For more detail in what is recommended by the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, you can Google their website with the initials ADA or AAPD.

The bottom line to X-rays is they cost money and have radiation. The radiation used for dental X-rays is exceedingly small compared to medical X-rays. Two digital X-rays have about the same amount of radiation as a few hours spent outdoors in Colorado. But the old style of doing dentistry with X-rays and fluoride treatment every 6 months for everyone is firmly engrained in our society. If your child is low risk, break out of that mold and save your kid the trouble!

For more details or to find out what other questions you may need the answers to, log on to my website at or email me. I love what I do, and I would love to help you raise beautiful, healthy children!