Dental Exams and X-Rays: Responsible Oral Health

How often do I need dental exams and x-rays?   Regular dental checkups are one of the best ways to look after your teeth and be proactive. Even if your teeth and gums look healthy, you could still be at risk of tooth decay and cavities.

How often do I need dental exams and x-rays?  

Regular dental checkups are one of the best ways to look after your teeth and be proactive. Even if your teeth and gums look healthy, you could still be at risk of tooth decay and cavities. Here’s everything you need to know about getting dental exams and x-rays.

How often do I need to visit the dentist for an exam? 

How often you should visit the dentist will depend on the health of your teeth. For most people an annual dental exam and x-rays is enough to keep on top of their oral health. Other people might need to visit the dentist every six months. 

Either way, regular dental visits mean your dentist can stay on top of signs of decay, gum disease or other common dental problems. Regular dental checkups also mean you’re less likely to need an emergency appointment and the cost of checkups are relatively low compared to restoration, so you spend less on dental care in the long run. In fact, there is no downside to visiting your dentist regularly.

Do I need a dental x-ray at every checkup? 

The frequency of x-rays also depends on your dental health. X-rays enable dentists to see what’s going on beneath your teeth. If you have a history of cavities, periodontal disease or tooth loss, your dentist may recommend bitewing x-rays at every visit. Additional x-rays are usually recommended for follow-up appointments. 

Common types of x-rays include:

Full mouth x-rays 

Most patients only need a full mouth x-ray every 3-5 years. These help dentists evaluate your tooth structure and bone levels in the jaw. 

Bitewing x-rays 

Most patients will get two bitewing x-rays at their annual checkup. Bitewing x-rays will show signs of cavities and decay between the teeth. 

Periapical x-rays 

Periapical x-rays can help dentists assess the condition of base of individual teeth and are used to help detect decay, gum disease and bone loss.


What happens during dental exams and x-rays?

If you haven’t been to the dentist for a while, you might not know what to expect. If you are a new patient, your first exam and x-ray appointment will usually take the longest. It’s a good idea to allow up to an hour for your first appointment.  

A routine check-up has three parts – a full mouth examination, x-rays and sometimes a series of photos. Before the exam your dentist will chat to you about your oral health, any problems you’re concerned with and your dental history. Your dentist will then check your mouth, teeth, gums and soft tissues for visual signs of:

  • Decay 
  • Gum disease 
  • Other health issues 

A visual exam is only the first step. While your teeth may look healthy, tooth decay often happens beneath the surface. Bite x-rays help with the diagnosis and prevention of gum disease. They can help spot problems early on. 

Do I need to see a dentist and a dental hygienist annually? 

A dentist and a dental hygienist are two different services. Dentist will assess your teeth, mouth and gums, a dental hygienist will clean and polish your teeth and can help treat gum disease. At your annual checkup, your dentist may refer you to a hygienist if you: 

  • Have plaque and tartar build up 
  • Have signs of gum disease 
  • Have persistent bad breath 
  • Have sore or swollen gums 
  • Have receding gums 

You can also visit a dental hygienist if you want a routine clean, scale and polish and like the feeling of a clean, fresh mouth.

Do I still need regular checkups if I don’t have cavities? 

Yes. Even if you’ve never had a cavity, you should still go to the dentist. There are even preventative treatments available that can help keep your teeth cavity-free for longer. 

Fluoride treatments: Strengthen your tooth enamel with an extra boost of minerals. Fluoride treatments help protect your teeth from decay. 

Dental sealants: Protect the tooth enamel in the deep fissures and pits in your molars from plaque and acids with dental sealants. A dental sealant is a thin filling applied on top of your molars that act as a preventive barrier from early decay.

What if I need extra treatments?

Treatments are completed at a second appointment. If you need something small done and there’s time, your dentist might complete some treatments within one appointment. At Gentle Dental, we won’t complete any work without talking to you first.  

Ready to keep on top of your oral health? Book dental exams and x-rays with our friendly dentists now. We have four practices in Wellington making it even easier to book at a time that suits your schedule.