What you should know about dental records

You probably don’t spend much time thinking about your dental records ― and you may not even know exactly what they are. Learn more about dental records, why you might need them and how to get them.

Why would I need my dental records?

Your dental care is an important part of your overall health, and your dental records are the record of your oral health history. 

If you switch from one dentist to another, your new dentist will need to know your dental history. The dentist will also need a full set of x-rays of your teeth. You might also need your records if you’re visiting a specialist for a root canal, orthodontics or oral surgery.

If you have a copy of your dental records, you can provide them to your new dentist directly, which can save the time and effort of having to request that your previous dentist transfer them. Having a set of your dental x-rays can also save the time and expense of having to redo them, and a bonus is that it also limits your exposure to radiation.

You may also be asked to provide your dental records to your physician. For instance, your doctor might want to review your dental records to look for early signs of chronic condition such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, or for signs of certain cancers. Oral disease has also been associated with surgery complications, so a surgeon might want to review your dental records before a performing a procedure.  

Which dental records do I need?

Dental records you may need include:

  • X-rays
  • Past diagnoses
  • Clinical notes
  • Dentist-patient communication
  • Treatment consent documents 

How can I get a copy of my dental records?

  1. Request your records. Put the request in writing so both you and your dentist have a record of the request.
  2. Obtain a copy of your records from your dentist. Your dentist can share your electronic medical records (EMRs) securely via email. If you’d prefer to go “old school” with a hard copy of your records, you dentist may charge you a small fee for preparing and mailing them. The original documents remain the property of the dentist.

Your dental records are a vital history of your oral health that can help ensure you receive the best care possible. You might never need a copy of your dental records, but if you do, just ask! Your dental office should be willing and able to help you with the process.