Is My New Dentist Overdoing It with X-Rays and Fluoride Treatment?

I have a new dentist and have some questions about their recommendations. Do I need x-rays every six months? Also, as an adult, do I need a yearly fluoride treatment? I want to limit treatment that I do not need frequently. Thank you. Susanna from San Francisco


Thank you for your questions.

How Often Do You Need Dental X-rays?

General guidelines for dental x-rays are as follows:

  • Bitewing x-rays – Yearly
  • Panographic x-ray – once every five years

However, the American Dental Association (ADA) states that your dentist may recommend x-rays more often depending on several factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Your oral health
  • Your risk for disease
  • Signs and symptoms of oral disease, including tooth decay, bone disease, or gum disease

Dental x-rays expose you to minimal radiation. Still, the ADA document, Dental Radiographs – Benefits and Safety, recommends providing a new dentist with your existing x-rays to avoid duplicating them.

How Often Do Adults Need Fluoride Treatment?

Although dentists usually give fluoride treatment to children, adults may receive treatment for aggressive decay. How often you receive fluoride depends on your condition and its severity.

Teeth whitening application
Fluoride treatment can calm lingering sensitivity from teeth whitening

Reasons that your dentist might recommend fluoride treatment

  • Advanced tooth decay
  • Lingering sensitivity from teeth bleaching
  • Minimize decay from reduced saliva flow from diseases, medications, or medical treatments.

Most dental offices use acidulated fluoride. If you have porcelain veneers or crowns, acidulated fluoride can etch the surface, roughen it, and increase the risk of our crowns or veneer staining. If the dental lab makes your porcelain restorations tinted the surface, acidulated fluoride can dissolve the tint.

And if you want your teeth whitened, ask your dentist to supervise it, help you minimize sensitivity, and avoid the need for fluoride treatment.