Dental X-Rays: Are They Safe and Necessary?

Dental X-Rays: Are They Safe and Necessary?

"Do you have any questions for me today?" Each time you visit your dentist, you're likely to hear this familiar refrain. By asking, your dentist is able to address any concerns you may have about your teeth, a procedure, or just share information that helps you remain informed. Perhaps one of the more common question dentists and hygienists are asked surrounds 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. We believe you'll 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, the X-ray of today is far superior to those of even just a decade ago, thanks to faster film speeds, digital X-rays, and the use of protective aprons and thyroid collars.

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 as an adjunct to 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 Patient with, or at increased risk for cavities: 
    One set of X-rays every 6-18 months.
  • Continuing Care Patient with no clinical cavities and not at increased risk for cavities: 
    One set of X-rays every 24-36 months.
  • Continuing Care Patient with periodontal disease:
    Dependent upon the professional judgment of your dentist.
  • New and Continuing Care Patients being monitored for dental/skeletal relationships:
    Dependent upon the professional judgement of your dentist.
  • Patients with, but not limited to, proposed or existing implants and root canals: 
    Dependent upon the professional judgement of your dentist.

Do you want to read ADA’s complete guidelines? The full report can be found here.