If you ever have received a prosthetic joint implant, you may be aware that implant patients have been advised to take antibiotics prior to undergoing a dental procedure. This recommendation has been made to prevent "bacterial endocarditis," a life-threatening heart infection. The antibiotics prevent bacteria from being released into the bloodstream during a dental procedure and infecting the heart lining and valves. However, most recently, both the American Heart Association and the American Dental Association have limited their recommendation of a pre-procedure antibiotic to high-risk patients (including those with an artificial heart valve, heart-transplant patients with valve problems, and patients with specific congenital heart conditions). Routine use of antibiotics for dental patients with joint implants is no longer recommended.
If you are concerned about exposure to radiation for dental x-rays, you should know that a routine exam, which includes four bitewing x-rays, is equivalent to less than one day of natural background radiation or a short plane trip (1-2 hours). By properly shielding patients' bodies while taking x-rays, that radiation exposure is even lower. New patients are encouraged to get posterior "bitewings," which include molars and premolars, plus more extensive x-rays, such as panoramic (which create a single image of the entire mouth including upper and lower jaws) or periapical (which highlight two and three teeth at a time, from root to crown). After that, patients at low risk for decay can get bitewings every 24 to 36 months.