Do you REALLY need those recommended x-rays?

Why does it seem that darn near every time you are in the dental chair for a cleaning and exam you hear these words, “You’re also due for x-rays today.” Wow! Nothing like these words to make it seem like the past year has just passed in a blink of an eye! After all it feels like you just had your teeth cleaned only three or four months ago, and now your hygienist is telling you that you’re also due for films. Or that it has been more than five years since your full mouth x-rays and you’re due for that! Yikes!! How did six months, or a year pass so quickly…?

The topic of x-rays has been in and out of the media in the past few years. Some “celebrity medical spokespersons” have been outright critical of the dental profession for the frequency with which routine x-rays are recommended. On the flip side, most of us would rather avoid any dental problems or keep any issues and their correction at a minimal cost to our time and our savings. Some medical radiographic screenings, such as mammograms, are recommended regularly because a mass may go undetected for some time. It is much easier to address a problem in the early stages versus an advanced stage.

Likewise it is much easier and less costly to address a dental problem in the early stages versus when the problem has grown. Dental problems that are let go can result in much larger fillings (translate as a nice dinner, or a pair of midfield 100 level tickets to a Broncos game), a crown instead of a filling (translate this one as two to four car payments, depending on how plush your ride is!), a root canal, (translate as a mountain weekend with all the perks, Vail! Steamboat! Yahoo!), a non-restorable condition requiring removal and replacement of the offending tooth, (translate this as a Caribbean cruise with an ocean view cabin or an Alaskan fly-in fishing trip!) *(These mental meanderings are based on full cost of restoration, without insurance).

Too often I have seen a patient who requests “no x-rays” every visit because they live on a limited or fixed income. This situation is truly heartbreaking when a problem might have been addressed much earlier had an x-ray been taken and the problem detected at their check-up appointment. In dollars this can translate from two to three hundred dollars for a filling versus over ten times that and upwards for a bridge or implant to replace the tooth. In that light I honestly think having your regular bite-wing x-rays is an excellent financial move, one even your financial advisor might approve of! That way you can spend your dollars on something you REALLY desire!

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