I think that your history of tooth decay dictates the amount and frequency of x-rays that are needed. That being said it is vitaly important that your periodondal condition must be monitored regularly. In my practice I take a full mouth series every 5 years. I don't think you can treat your health that being both medical and dental by the insurance you have or don't have. You are doing yourself a disservice.The least expensive dentistry is preventive dentistry.
Well, I can only speak from my experience (also as an uninsured patient) but the regular x-rays picked up two failed root canals that were getting so badly infected (symptom free) that I would have eventually lost both teeth if not for the resulting apicoectomies I got within months of those x-rays. The dentist discovered the problem with the routine x-rays and the endodontist who took over the problem mentioned that if it reached the point of painful symptoms by then the infection would have been so bad there would have been little chance to save the teeth. And they WERE bad...I got to inspect all the infected material he removed as well as the x-rays (so I had proof; they were not just putting me on). It was very suprising that I had no symptoms (well, I had mild odd sensations in those teeth but never any pain). But both my dentist and the specialist said that can happen sometimes.
Yes, the procedures were expensive, but I think the loss of those teeth (important, visible ones, #5 and #12) would have cost me a lot more in the long run.
Get the regular x-rays. You just never, ever know what's going on deep in the roots of your teeth and gums otherwise. Figure out a way to manage to pay for them. You really shouldn't scrimp on preventative dental care.
first i have to say if your hygienist told you that the dr's treatment wasnt valid, you may need to discuss this with your dds. not to get the person in trouble, but to tell the dentist how you are financially unable to spend on "reversable" cavities. however she is a hyg. not a dds. second, you can have your cleanings at the colleges where the hyg are in school. takes longer and you have to deal with them still learning, but its like 15 - 20 dollars. i dont know if they take xrays or not, but they do have a dds that can refer you out if they see something. preventative care is the only thing you can do to save yourself money. jordy is right, she may have spent lots on filling in her gaps had she waited and lost her teeth. listen, i bet you have an ipod-cost of a cleaning. go to a concert-cost of xrays. my point is we all can put some money away every month for our cleanings. take $20 out of every check and put it in your dental fund. $10 if that is all you can afford. that is 2 fast food lunches or a movie. take care of your teeth, you may just live to be 100!
if you are not prone to tooth decay, and if you have not had alot of dental work in the past (especially crown and brige work, root canals, or gum surgery) then having 2 or 4 bitewing (cavity detecting xrays as you call them) once per year should suffice. A full set of films need only be taken once every 3-5 years, depending on the patient. And I have to be frank with you. If your dentist said you had 2 small cavities that would cost $400, and then the hygienist said you didnt need them done, then something is wrong in that office. If the hygienist is right, then the dentist may be trying to stretch things a bit to keep his schedule full. If the hygienist is wrong and you do need he work done, then the dentist has a staff-related problem. Actually, he has a staff-related problem either way. It is not the hygienist's place to diagnose dental problems. If I were you, I'd get another opinion from a different dentist-- perhaps referred to you by a family member or friend. Something is just not sounding right to me.
My experience with schools is similar---- Students need credits-- sometimes, and this is different to phrase correctly, the temptation may exist to classify something as decay (needing treatment) when another dentist may not agree. Decay that is small does not "grow" over the weekend. It takes months to years--there is no harm in waiting, if something is that small, for your next visit to have it "re-evaluated" In your situation, what has been termed "decay" requiring 4400 in treatment May never develop into anything.
One other suggestion for the future. Some public health departments (city, county) still do cleanings, xrays and simple extractions for free. I also agree with the suggestion to save a little on a regular basis towards dental care.
It can be dangerous not to have insurance, but I do not know the cheapest procedures. If you cannot afford insurance at all, I would recommend a program not too many people know about. You can get a dental plan with several plan options nationwide for about a hundred dollars annually and save thousands. Not too many people know about this but I have been using it for years and in comparison actually like it better than insurance. There are many different plans but you should go to a nationwide comparison site to find out what is best for you. The one I found with the best deals and options is www.dentalplansaver.com. Good luck!