There are two ways to test bone density; the most accurate and most commonly used method is a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan, states MedlinePlus. Central DEXA is a low-dose X-ray machine which requires a patient to lie on a table while a machine scans the bones.
A Central DEXA is a large machine typically found in a hospital, normally used to scan the spine or hips, according to MedlinePlus. The procedure is quick and painless, and a patient usually does not need to undress. A peripheral DEXA is a smaller, portable machine that tests bone density in hands and feet. Due to its portability, it may be located at a doctor's office, health fair or pharmacy.
Doctors use bone density tests to ascertain declines in bone density, to assess the risk of broken bones, and to confirm or monitor osteoporosis, states Mayo Clinic. Women who are 65 or older, men who are 70 or older, anyone who has had a low-impact fracture, anyone over 50 who has broken a bone, and most people over 50 who have risk factors should have a bone density test, but a doctor may recommend testing for others with high risk factors, according to Women's Medicine Collaborative. Bone density testing is normally repeated every two years.