Many people believe dental radiographs are not worth their price. It can be shocking to find that a full set of X-rays costs $150 on average. And spending this kind of money in one go isn’t easy.
X-rays don’t always seem necessary. When is it your business to make sure one is taken? And how much do they actually cost?Creative Commons
Dental X-ray cost
The type of dental X-ray you need, and, of course, how many, are what impacts the price most. But only a dental professional can accurately diagnose what kind is appropriate in your case.
There are two main categories of dental X-rays: intraoral and extraoral. The prices for the can differ by a lot.
Below you can see prices for intraoral X-rays.
|Intraoral X-rays type||Average cost||Cost range|
And prices for extraoral X-rays:
|Extraoral X-rays type||Average cost||Cost range|
Extraoral X-rays are usually a bit more expensive. This is because they require equipment that costs a lot more. Moreover, small offices may not have the necessary tools, and you could be sent somewhere else.
If that is the case, you should be prepared for a higher fee. Dental offices do this to avoid an influx of patients who are just going to do small procedures instead of full treatment.
X-rays are almost always done to diagnose the existing condition and to accommodate some other procedure. Routine ones are usually done when you have your periodic exam or teeth cleaning since you’re at the office anyway.
Below are just a few of a wide spectrum of combinations.
During your dental exam, the dentist will check the overall health of your mouth and discuss any treatment you might need. Such a check-up visit is a great opportunity for a full-mouth series of X-rays (FMX).
An FMX is the most expensive of intraoral X-rays, but there’s a good reason for that. It is a set of eighteen images: four bitewings, and fourteen periapicals.
You should include an FMX in your budget once every three years. You can also expect to pay for it if you are a new patient at a dental office.
There’s barely a patient out there who has never had a cavity filling. A simple bitewing is often done beforehand to ascertain how many surfaces are affected by decay.
You might also have a periapical X-ray, as it can also detect hidden caries. These two types are the cheapest X-rays.
In order to remove a tooth safely, you must have an X-ray. Sometimes a PA is sufficient, but other times you might need a panoramic X-ray. It shows the structure of the mouth as well as the direction of root growth.
This procedure helps make sure there aren’t any complications. These could cost you a lot more later.
By showing what kind of impaction is at work (if there is one) a panoramic X-ray will also give you an estimate of the price for the procedure before it happens.
Cephalometric imaging is a cost you can’t escape, since it provides vital details about the profile and the bony structures in the mouth and skull. An orthodontist can use it to measure the exact distances between roots and teeth.
Dental implants require invasive dental surgery. In order to perform it safely a cone-beam CT is often performed. Bearing in mind the costs of dental implant placement, an X-ray is a small percentage of the price.
Implant placement in one of the most complicated dental procedures. Without the use of X-ray technology, it wouldn’t be possible at all. Such costs are indispensable with this type of treatment.
Does insurance cover dental X-rays?
Insurance almost always covers preventative care. This means that routine bitewings or even FMX will likely be covered. There’s even a chance that you will be reimbursed with no deductible.
What’s more, radiographs are diagnostic in nature. Even if the treatment that requires one is not preventive, there’s a good chance that the policy provider will cover at least a portion of the costs of an X-ray.
Here is an overview of how X-ray coverage works for three popular insurance providers:
|Features||Dental Blue for Individuals: Core Plan||Cigna Dental 1000||Humana: Dental Preventive Plus PPO|
|Fee per person per month||$35.95 (if you’re under 65)||$30 or more||$20.99 (after $35 enrollment fee)|
|Routine X-rays (e.g. bitewing)||100% covered(no deductible)||100% covered(no deductible)||100% covered(no deductible in-network), 70% covered out-of-network (after deductible)|
|Non-routine X-rays (e.g. FMX)||70% (30% coinsurance) after deductible||80% covered (20% coinsurance) after deductible||Not covered (may be subject to discount)|
|Waiting period||None for routine and 6 months for non-routine||6 months for routine and 12 months for non-routine*||None for routine|
|In-network dentists||Quotes provided for in-network dentists||Quotes provided for in-network dentists||Up to 28% of extra discount, but you can see any dentist|
**If you’ve not had dental insurance for the past 12 consecutive months. Waiting periods are waived at Cigna if you’ve had valid dental insurance for a year.
Nonetheless, insurance comes with yearly caps, waiting periods, and pages of paperwork. There are other ways to save on dental procedures.
How to save money on dental X-rays?
First of all, you might want to try a dental plan. They have no yearly maximums, waiting periods, and absolutely no paperwork. In fact, they won’t need an X-ray to give you a discount on any procedure!
Still, for a regular fee, you will have access to all procedures, including X-rays, at a reduced rate. Dental plans work similarly to a membership.
Moreover, it is always smart to take as good care of your teeth as you can. You probably won’t be able to eliminate restorative care altogether, but you can limit it. And preventive care is always more affordable.
The third popular option is going to a dental school. Dentistry students can perform procedures under the watchful eye of a licensed professional. There is no risk involved, but it may take a bit longer since every step has to be graded. Your X-ray might even be performed for free!
Some dental groups cover some of the fees for low-income patients. The ADA has a list of associations that might help.
Are dental X-rays worth the money?
There are four main arguments supporting the claim that X-rays are a detrimental part of dentistry. First of all, they help create a record of what is going on in the mouth. This way the dentist can check and track the progress of treatment.
Secondly, X-rays are great as documents you can take to other specialists for referrals or second opinions. If you want implants you will have an X-ray done. If you get a quote you can’t afford you can take the image somewhere else to compare prices.
Dr. Jack Lawrence
On the example of implants, X-rays are especially crucial because they allow the practitioner to avoid placing them near crucial nerves that control sensation to parts of the face and also to see how close the implants are to any sinuses in the head.
Thirdly, perhaps most importantly in terms of your personal finances, X-rays are a big part of insurance claims. A radiograph is an evidence that dental work was necessary. It is common for policy providers to refuse to cover, for example, RCT, if no X-ray was taken.
And lastly, X-rays are taken is to see what is happening inside the tooth and bone. Without them modern dentistry would be impossible.
In your experience
X-rays are common procedures not only at the dental office, but in the field of medicine overall. They provide a wide range of information, that couldn’t be gathered without them.
Nonetheless some think they are simply a scam. What is your experience? Did you ever regret not getting an X-ray? Comment down below.