Why Dental X-rays?
You go to the dentist for your regular check-up, and you’re told, “You need X-rays.” Or you go in for a procedure, and the dentist wants to take X-rays before getting started. What does this mean? And will it be expensive?
X-rays are pictures of the body taken with a special type of camera. They allow detailed visualization of parts of the interior of the body, especially bones and teeth. Dental X-rays may be taken to check for decay between teeth; to check for bone loss due to gum disease; to look for abnormalities below the gum line such as impacted teeth, tumors, or infections; and for other reasons. Typically, dentists regularly take bitewing X-rays, a set of four X-rays which show the molars, at check-ups, to look for tooth decay. Other types of X-rays may be taken at your initial appointment, to diagnose a problem, or before a procedure. For more detail about X-rays, please visit the Dental X-rays page in our Education Wiki.
X-rays are not very expensive. The bitewing series of four X-rays taken at many check-ups costs only $20 to $100. A full-mouth series of X-rays, often taken at the first appointment with a dentist, costs $85 to $250. And a panoramic X-ray is only $60 to $150. Sometimes, the cost of X-rays may be included in the cost of your check-up or treatment.
Keep in mind that this is only an average; it varies by region and by individual dentist, so you should check with the dentist(s) you’re considering to determine their exact fee for your appointment or procedure. Ask what’s included in that fee, to make sure you aren’t surprised by extra costs when you get the bill later.
Will Insurance Cover It?
Dental insurance commonly covers dental X-rays. There may be limits on how many X-rays can be taken per year or per treatment. You should call your insurance company to determine your coverage, or ask for help from the staff at the dental office; they’re used to dealing with insurance companies and can help you accurately determine your coverage.
Medical insurance typically does not cover dentistry at all. You need to have a separate dental insurance plan to cover dental care.
To many people, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars up front for a dental procedure seems impossible, and the added cost of the necessary dental X-rays just makes it seem worse. However, if you don’t already have the money saved, you have many options available for financing. In some cases, dentists offer financing plans for their patients. You can also get a medical credit card or other credit card, often with an attractive introductory interest rate; a medical loan, personal loan, or home equity loan from your bank; a loan from your 401(k); or loans or gifts from family and friends. Even if your credit isn’t great, you’d be surprised how many options you have. For more details about the financing options for your procedure, check out our Dentistry Financing page.