Why Do I Need X-rays?

"To see is to know ... not to see is to guess. We won't guess about your health."

In my years as a Registered Dental Hygienist, I have discovered that dental x-rays, or radiographs, have been a hot topic with patients. Should they be taken once a year? Twice a year? Are they harmful? Why do we really need them? All of these questions are more than reasonable and every patient deserves the answers.


Westport Family Dental prides itself on providing the best dental care possible. However, any patient that refuses necessary dental radiographs is denying us an imperative diagnostic tool. It's like asking a mechanic to fix your car, but not allowing him to look under the hood. We don't want to guess why a tooth aches, we want to know. In order to treat a symptom, we have to be able to see the problem.


So let's talk about the frequency or radiographs, the significance of them, and why they are needed for proper dental treatment.


Why do I need x-rays?

For Adults:

  • To show decay in between the teeth that we cannot see visually during an oral exam.
  • To examine the bone levels in between the teeth that accompanies periodontal disease.
  • To evaluate the tips of roots for any infections.
  • To check for possible decay underneath existing fillings.
  • Examine an area before a dental procedure such as applying braces, implants, or extracting a tooth.

For Children:

  • To show decay in between the teeth.
  • To determine if there is enough space for incoming adult teeth.
  • Checking for development of wisdom teeth.



Frequency of dental radiographs depends on the medical history, dental history, and current oral condition of each patient.


Bitewings or "checkup x-rays" are a total of four images taken, two on each side of the mouth. We take these images once a year to determine if there are any cavities hiding in between the teeth or underneath any existing fillings.


Full Mouth Series or "full set" is a set of 18 images taken once every three to five years. This allows us to see the tips of all roots of the teeth, in addition to cavity detection and bone evaluation.


PA or Periapical is usually a single image taken of a localized area at an emergency visit or any time a patient is experiencing a symptom.


Our radiograph frequency protocol is designed for us to be able to catch any areas of concern before they evolve into a larger issue. Teeth are constantly changing. So as a dental team, it is our mission to keep up with those changes and prevent any treatment that could have otherwise been avoided.

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