Didn’t I Have X-Rays Last Time?


Chances are, if you have visited any dental office, the term “dental x-rays” has come up in conversation. Although having an x-ray anywhere on your body can build anxiety, we are here to assure you that dental x-rays, otherwise known as “radiographs” are safe and the benefits of annual dental x-rays can far outweigh the risks of a small dose of radiation.

Did you know that you can receive more radiation from a 5 hour flight from NYC to LA than a single dental x-ray?

Please read through some of the most frequently asked questions regarding dental radiographs.


Is it safe to have dental x-rays?

Yes. Dental x-rays are taken to benefit you. Our principle is “ALARA” As Low As Reasonably Achievable. By using all achievable methods, we will provide radiation safety by minimizing doses of radiation. The amount of x-radiation in dental radiographs is small. Patient protection is our number one priority. We provide the lowest amount of radiation possible by selecting the proper settings, use of a lead apron with a thyroid collar, maintain up to date technology, and through the proper prescription of dental radiographs.

What are you looking for on my x-ray?

Dental x-rays are a critical component of your dental assessment. They are primarily used in the detection and diagnosis of cavities, periodontal concerns, cysts, tumors and conditions of the teeth and bones that cannot be identified by simply looking into the mouth.

How often does an adult or child need x-rays?

Each patient is prescribed dental radiographs based on their needs. Your Dentist will determine the type of x-ray, how many and the frequency. If you’re susceptible to dental cavities, the Dentist may recommend x-rays every 12-18 months. Children who have had a cavity before the age of 5 should be monitored for Early Childhood Caries and are recommended to have new dental x-rays prescribed yearly.

What about x-rays during pregnancy?

The Dentist will postpone routine dental x-rays until after pregnancy. However, with wearing a lead apron, studies have reported that there is no detectable radiation exposure to the embryo or fetus. Knowing this, if you were having a dental emergency and required an x-ray for diagnosis, you and your child would be safe from radiation exposure as the American Dental Association and Food and Drug Administration has stated in the guidelines for Prescribing dental x-rays “they do not need to be altered because of pregnancy.” 2

Will I be covered by my insurance?

It is best to know and understand your dental insurance package. Most dental plans do include radiographic imaging. A predetermination can be sent to your insurance to confirm what will be covered. If you do not have a dental treatment plan, x-ray prices are set yearly by the Ontario Fee Guide and can vary depending on what is prescribed. On average a dental x-ray can cost $35.

What’s a panoramic x-ray used for?

A panoramic (pan) radiograph is helpful in providing an overall view of the mouth. The pan is typically prescribed to detect: wisdom teeth, infections, orthodontic (braces) assessment, ensuring all adult teeth are present (under the gums) for a child, patterns of growth and development, lesions and conditions of the jaw such as TMJD, trauma, observation of the sinuses, and in rare cases, detection of hardening in arteries around neck.

Can I decline x-rays?

Yes you have the right to refuse a dental prescription but you might be asked to sign a refusal form. Without recent dental x-rays taken within 12 months, infection, cavity, gum disease, cyst or tumor could go undetected for a long time. Although your tooth may not have any symptoms such as pain or sensitivity, what lies beneath the gums or between the teeth may tell us a different story.

We are more than happy to answer any and all of your x-ray questions at your next appointment!

Written by: Ashley Roberts, RDH


  1. Picture: www.drvsiegel.com/blog/2018/03/28/all-about-dental-x-rays-190037
  2. Additional Info: Haring, J. I., & Lind, L. J. (2012). Dental radiography: Principles and techniques (fourth). Elsevier.