How Often Should You Get X-Rays at the Dentist and What is the Cost?
During your last appointment, you may have noticed that dental scans are becoming a staple part of your visit. But how often should you get x-rays at the dentist?
Before we talk about x-rays, let’s dig into how often you should be going to the dentist period.
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How Often Should You Go To The Dentist?
The American Dental Association recommends going to the dentist twice per year (so, every 6 months).
This rule of thumb wasn’t always the case. Back in the day, we only went to the dentist when we had a problem needing fixing: a toothache, a chipped tooth, or bleeding gums.
But with technology the way that it is today and the vast amount of studies over the years, dental experts have learned that going to the dentist twice a year helps prevent costly tooth repairs.
Of course, this 6-month rule is not a one-size-fits-all. As the ADA so lovingly puts it,
“You are a unique individual, with a unique smile and unique needs when it comes to keeping your smile healthy.”
Instead of going to the dentist for a painful root canal treatment, you can use your dental coverage for a routine cleaning to prevent those issues from happening.
Your insurance probably covers those visits anyway, so you likely get two free oral exams every year!
Why You May Need To Go More Often
Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so even if you are diligent in your annual visits and at-home care, you may still find yourself in the dentist chair more often than you would like.
Other health problems can contribute to how often you go to the dentist. For example, untreated diabetes presents issues like dry mouth, cavities, inflamed gums, and mouth infections. All of which may land you back in the dentist’s office for additional treatment.
Some other conditions that may require more than two visits a year are:
- You’re pregnant
- You’re a smoker
- You’ve been diagnosed with cancer
- Recent dental trauma (e.g., sports or car accident)
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A Typical Dentist Visit
If it’s been a minute since you’ve been to the dentist, let us walk you through a traditional tooth cleaning visit.
Step 1: Filling Out Forms
The fun part, right?
New patients are always required to fill out 3-4 pages of information for insurance purposes. If you’re a regular, then chances are you’ll just have to sign in your name!
During these times, dentists are trying to cut back on wait times. Some may even require you to wait in your car before your appointment.
Read our guide on Los Angeles Dental: What To Expect During The Pandemic to learn more about standard dentist office procedures.
Step 2: Dental X-Rays
You don’t need to get a dental scan for every visit, but you definitely will if you’re a new patient. We’ll also need to get a digital scan if you’re getting a root canal or cosmetic procedure such as dental implants.
How often you should get x-rays at the dentist depends on the type of appointment you’ve booked and the amount of time that has passed since your last one.
Step 3: The Cleaning
The first person you’ll see is your dental hygienist. One of their duties is to conduct the preliminary teeth cleaning. They’ll use tools to scrape off dental plaque in hard-to-reach areas, brush your molars, and adequately floss your teeth.
The cleaning that your dental hygienist performs is a lot more precise and thorough than what you can do at home. You can’t always get all the plaque and tartar between your teeth. The stuff you miss often leads to cavities, gum, disease, and tooth decay.
Step 4: The Exam
Finally, your dentist will come in to complete your evaluation. They’ll use a periodontal probe tool that helps them measure any deep pockets in your gums or gaps in your teeth.
Based on what your dentist examines, they’ll tell you the state of your oral health and any follow-up procedures you may need.
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How Often Should You Get X-Rays at the Dentist?
Your dentist will recommend that you get dental x-rays once a year. However, a few things factor in how often you should get them. This includes:
- Your present oral health
- Your age
- Your risk for disease (e.g., Smokers are more at risk)
- Signs and symptoms of oral disease
We’ll get a dental x-ray for your first visit if you’re a new patient. Depending on the health of your teeth and gums, we may not need another one until next year.
The good news is, patients can prevent needing x-rays (which can cost more money) by taking care of their oral health! Your oral hygiene routine plays a huge role in the cost of each dentist appointment.
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Cost For Dental X-Rays
The average cost for dental x-rays is about $ $350-600 per session, depending on how many scans you need.
Keep in mind that this is the minimum. The type of x-ray you need, your location, and your dentist’s experience all play a factor in your dental costs.
Types of Dental X-Rays
Dental x-rays give your dentist an actual superpower: X-ray vision.
These sophisticated machines can spot cavities, gum disease, bone loss, and other oral problems that may not be visible to the naked eye. However, it’s important to note that not all x-rays are created equal.
Like most technology, there are different tiers available, with each one more advanced than the next. Here are the different types of dental x-rays:
- Full Bitewing X-Ray ($20-$100): We use this to detect abnormalities on your upper and lower teeth. Your dentist will lookout for signs of gum disease or tooth decay.
- Full Periapical X-Ray ($85–$250): This x-ray takes a closer look at bone structure and your tooth’s root. This is likely needed to prescribe a root canal.
- Occlusal X-Ray ($20-$40 each): Occlusal’s are great for patients who want treatments such as Invisalign. These scans show the whole picture when it comes to your teeth development, including the roof and floor of your mouth.
- Panoramic/Full-Mouth X-Ray ($60-150): This extraoral x-ray scans your entire head, including your jaw and skull. These are necessary when a patient needs an evaluation for potential wisdom tooth removal or TMJ.
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Does Insurance Cover It?
Does your insurance cover dental x-rays? Great question!
Fortunately, since we have these 3D scanners in-office, we don’t have to outsource the imaging. This means that your insurance most likely covers your annual x-ray. The only reason your insurance may not cover it is if you have to get more than one scan a year to keep an eye on oral concerns.
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