Are there laws about how often X-rays must be taken?

X-rays are often a part of dental exams and, while there is no statutory direction as to how often a dentist must take X-rays, it’s difficult to do a thorough diagnosis or monitor a patient’s oral health without taking X-rays in reasonable intervals throughout the patient’s “lifetime” at the dental office.

How frequently dental X-rays are needed depends on your present medical and oral health, age, risk for disease and any signs or symptoms of oral disease you may be experiencing.

Patients with high risk factors may require films to be taken more frequently than those with lower risk. Children also may require X-rays more often than adults, because their teeth and jaws are still developing and are more likely to be affected by tooth decay.

Your dentist will review your history and examine your mouth before deciding whether X-rays are appropriate during your visit. For new patients, dentists may recommend X-rays to determine your present oral health status and help identify any changes that might occur later.

Dental X-rays are an important part of an oral examination and your dentist must follow recommended guidelines and use his or her professional judgment in reviewing your unique situation to determine what is clinically best for you. X-rays provide your dentist with a valuable diagnostic tool that helps assess the overall condition of your teeth and their roots, jaw placement and overall composition of your facial bones. X-rays also can detect new cavities, help determine the status of your gum health and evaluate the growth and development of teeth.

X-rays help your dentist see diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissue that cannot be seen with a basic visual oral examination and find and treat dental problems early in their development. This can potentially save you money, unnecessary discomfort and maybe even your life.

If the dentist requests that a patient have X-rays taken based on their oral health needs, and the patient refuses, the dentist has the right (although he or she may choose not to exercise it) to dismiss the patient from his or her practice. The reason for this is that both the patient and dentist should be comfortable with the dentist/patient relationship and, should there be disagreement on fundamental treatment, then both parties would be better served in an environment where they are both comfortable.