QUESTION: Hi Dr. Teig, I just wanted to ask you in terms of x-rays on dental teeth. I get x-rayed about once every 6 months but I try not to get so many x-rays. Often times, dental offices want to x-ray the full mouth for their office records. I got full mouth x-ray last week and another set of full mouth x-rays today, but don't plan on being x-rayed for a really long time unless there are problems. Am I already being overexposed and would this cause cancer cells or diseases? How much is too much? I am just concerned of being overexposed especially when they take x-rays of teeth that aren't even an issue. And are digital x-rays contain less radiation than film x-rays? Thanks for your time.

ANSWER: Kendra - The necessity of taking dental xrays varies.  It varies often depending on the patients history of decay or periodontal disease and the length of time since a proper evaluation.  I am giving you a graph from Colgate that pretty well describes the reasons for and the time schedule for taking xrays.

Review it and if you have additional questions, feel free to get back to me.  Xrays if taken too often or if they are too intense can produce problems.  So check this site out.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Dr. Teig, thanks for getting back to you. I would like to get your professional and even personal opinion on silver fillings and the amount of mercury. Every time I go into a dental office, there's always a warning that silver fillings can cause cancer. I am guessing it is from the mercury. I understand that the mercury is mixed in with a bunch of other elements, but I have a whole mouth full of silver fillings, really large silver fillings on every tooth on the back. I was wondering are all these fillings really bad for me? I been getting silver fillings since I was a little kid, replacing them many times throughout the years. I would move to composite fillings but I know they aren't as strong and my teeth are already weak and dentists never recommend it to me. So I am wondering if I am still okay or would I eventually have so much mercury in my system that can cause issues. How risky are silver fillings and mercury or whatever that is bad for you? Is it something that I should be worried about? How much is too much? Thank you!

Kendra - I too have many silver fillings and I am never worried about them.  Once silver fillings have been placed, any mercury within becomes bound to the other components of the filling and no mercury is unbound.  

I know many dentists have scared their patients into having their silver fillings removed and replaced with composite fillings.  If the filling does not have decay weakening it and the filling does not have a crack, there is no reason to remove the filling.  Composite fillings are much worse for a stable dentition.  They wear down easy and allow a leakage that often produces decay in the tooth surrounding the filling.  

So don't worry.  I have a silver filling is about 12 teeth.  These fillings were mostly placed when I was young, but I have had a couple removed within the past few years and replaced with new silver fillings.  That's me.  I believe they are structurally sound and better than composite.  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Joel S. Teig, DMD, Diplomate ABOMS, retired


I am a board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon and I am available to answer questions related to tooth extractions, implant insertion, facial recontruction, facial and oral tumor removal, TMJ dysfunction and various successful treatments, including surgery if all else fails, and occlusal discrepancy requiring orthognathic or jaw surgery.


Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon practicine for over 20 years. Assistant Clincal Professor and State University School of Dentistry.

American Dental Association, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

BA -University of Connecticut DMD - University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine

Awards and Honors
National Honor Society (OKU), Philadelphia County Dental Society, Mosby Book Award, Oral Surgery Honors, Summa Cum Laude

©2017 All rights reserved.