Can You Refuse Dental X-Rays?

A patient always has the choice of whether to proceed with any recommended treatment. Just as in medical procedures, a patient can refuse a diagnostic test, dental treatment or even dental x-rays!


But your dentist or dental hygienist cannot provide care for you based on an incomplete diagnosis without risking liability for failure to diagnose or treat existing conditions.  No patient can give consent for a practitioner to be knowingly negligent. So while you are free to refuse the treatment, your dentist or dental hygienist is also able to refuse to continue non-life-threatening dental treatment.


If you have a concern about dental x-rays, you should discuss the reason behind it with your dentist or dental hygienist. It may not change the need for dental x-rays but perhaps they can be done in a different way or a different number.


Cost is one concern that many patients have. If you have dental insurance, your insurance will often pay for dental x-rays—sometimes even more often than we want to take them! If you do not have insurance, ask if you could make payments on the x-ray portion of the day’s cost or if you could postpone them to no later than your next visit to give you time to save up for the cost.


If dental x-rays cause you discomfort, we may be able to adapt the way they are taken or the size of the film used. If you have a different concern, we will gladly discuss it with you to see if there is a way we can alleviate that concern. In fact, with our digital technology, very little has to be in your mouth in order to take most dental x-rays so the discomfort is greatly reduced!


We work hard to make sure that the dental x-rays we recommend and take are necessary and will give us additional information to assist in your diagnosis and dental care.  Dental x-rays are no longer a “one size fits all” recommendation of once every six months or once a year. We look at your health and the past history of cavities and gum disease as well as how vulnerable you might be to oral diseases. We do look at, but are not bound by, the American Dental Association’s 2012 guidelines which were developed with input from both dental and non-dental groups. If your health circumstances change, you might see a difference in how often we recommend dental x-rays.


Some health and lifestyle events that might lead to more frequent taking of dental x-rays include (but are not limited to):


  • Past history of cavities/cavity rate
  • Periodontal disease (either active now or in your past)
  • Tobacco use
  • Systemic diseases that are known to affect teeth or gums (Ex. Diabetes)
  • Medications that are known to affect mouths, teeth or gums.


Remember that we only see about 1/3 of your tooth and none of your bone when we look in your mouth. In most adults, we cannot examine the contact areas in between the teeth visually or with our dental instruments. Dental problems in an early state often DO NOT have symptoms such as pain or swelling that will signal something going on. But dental problems are most easily treated in an early stage, BEFORE symptoms develop.


We want to understand your position on dental x-rays, but we also ask that you understand ours and allow us to give you the care you deserve!

Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.

Dr. Jennifer Robb sees adults and children at her General Dentistry practice at 1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. 440-960-1940. Learn more at and don’t forget to become her facebook friend at