Dental Hygiene/xrays


I would like to know if xrays are necessary when going for a cleaning.I alternate between periodontal and dental cleaning every 3 months. I am not fond of xrays and feel if I did have issues I would agree. I get a good report card every visit.
Your thoughts please. My dentist has me sign a waiver and says it's law.
thank you

Hi Denise,

You are correct to have an aversion to x rays.  The danger from x rays come from the fact that the dose of radiation that becomes dangerous is measured by the cumulative effect of radiation from all sources over your lifetime.  Even though dental X rays dosage is not as high as cat scans for instance, each X Ray you have causes accumulation of those dosages over a lifetime, which is added to each medical X Ray, sun exposure and any o their source of ionizing radiation that you are exposed to.  So your desire to have as few X rays as possible is smart and prudent.  

I am including a link below which takes you to the American Dental Association guidelines on dental X rays.  These guidelines came about as a response to dentists taking more radiographs than necessary .  I will tell you about some of the guidelines for a patient like you.

First of all routine X rays should not be taken at some specific intervals just to look for potential problems unless there are clinical signs suggesting a problem.  That's why the guidelines suggest taking the X rays only after the clinical examination shows a reason for an X Ray.

Secondly, frequency of X rays should be based on risk analysis of the individual patient.  Of course low risk patients need less frequent X Ray examination.
Your description suggests that you are a low risk patient.  I  can't be certain of that without further information.  The ADA guidelines suggest that you could have bite wings X rays examinatin of your back teeth only, as frequently as 24 to 36th month intervals.  In my opinion that could very well too frequent.  It's hard to control because X rays are a large part of many dental offices income.  Any other non routine X rays should only be to investigate reasons for a problem that is found during examination only.

There are no state or federal laws that dictate frequency of dental X rays.    Some states may require routine X rays for new patients or proof that a procedure  is necessary.  How often is your dentist taking routine X rays.  If it sounds unreasonable, I may have more comments for you.

When it comes time for your next X Ray, ask the doc "is that really necessary.  If the answer is yes, have him explain why.  You maynowknow more about it than your dentist does.

Larry Burnett  DDS  

Dental Hygiene

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Larry Burnett DDS


I can answer questions about prevention, elimination of, and non surgical treatment of periodontal diseases and early tooth decay. I can't answer questions concerning dental insurance payments.


Taught hygienists in a major dental hygiene school for about 20 years. Taught hands on courses concerning these categories to Dentists and Hygienists throughout the US and Canada including repeat lectures at the Annual Scientific Sessions of A.D.A. and A.G.D over several years. Personal hands on delivery of preventive hygiene services to disadvantaged children through a mobile school based prevention program.

RDH Magazine, Parkell, Dental India and some places of which I'm not aware.

Medical College of Virginia ( VCU) School of Dentistry.

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