Dental x-rays covered by your plan

facilities_digital_xray2Most insurance plans will allow you to have a full mouth series dental x-ray taken once every 5 years. This full mouth series basically contain about 16 to 20 small sized x-rays (about the size of a big stamp) so that each tooth in your mouth can be clearly examined on the x-ray films. This is the most informative and is of very high diagnostic values of cavity, periodontal diseases, and pulpal pathologies (root canal problems). These three categories of problems comprise 80- 90% of all oral and dental problems in the general public. Therefore, when your dentist performs a new patient examination (first time seeing you), he/she may prescribe this one as a baseline in order to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for you. This is especially important for patients with long time neglect of their oral health that require extensive dental treatments or with many existing dental restorations in their mouth. For a patient with minimal existing fillings, minimal obvious cavities in the mouth and no obvious periodontal problems after clinical examination by the dentist, it is not likely that a full mouth series of x-rays is that valuable and justified. In this case, four checkup x-rays (also called bitewings which are only part of the full mouth series) are appropriate to check if there are any cavities developing in the posterior teeth, which cannot be detected by clinical examination. In addition, a few other small sized x-rays called periapical x-rays may be needed if the dentist believes some particular teeth are having problems but cannot confirm them with clinical examination. While full mouth series is commonly limited to once every 5 years by insurance coverage (which is quite reasonable as I don’t see why would anyone needs it more frequently than this), a few bitewings and periapical x-rays are covered every year. Another x-ray frequently prescribed by dentists is panoramic x-ray. It is a big film showing all your teeth, jaws and jaw joints, and sinuses. Remember that you ever stood in front of a big machine with your hands holding the handles and you noticed part of the machine turned around your head while you were taking the x-ray? This panoramic x-ray is also often limited to once every 5 years by your insurance coverage. It covers a broad area in one film but gives the dentist less detailed information. It is especially poor to detect cavities, periodontal diseases, or pulpal pathologies unless they have developed to a very obvious extent. As I mentioned earlier, these three problems are the most common ones affecting the general public population. Instead of detecting common pathologies in your mouth, panoramic x-ray detects occult diseases such as a cyst or a tumor in the jawbone, an impacted tooth or impacted wisdom teeth, problems with the temporal-mandibular joints (jaw joints) etc. Because x-rays are important records of your past and present oral condition, when you decide to switch from one dental office to another one, make sure you called your previous dental office to transfer your x-rays to the new office. This will save you a lot of money, time, and exposure risk of taking unnecessary dental x-rays