What Parents Should Know About Their Kids’ Dental X-rays

X-rays are a routine part of preventive dental appointments, but many parents are concerned about radiation exposure. This often brings up questions about the overall safety of an X-ray for kids and whether they are necessary.

If you find yourself worried about X-rays and radiation, here is some important information you should know.

Are dental X-rays safe for kids?

On a scale of 1 to 10, dental X-rays easily rank 9 to 10 for safety. Modern digital X-ray technology has reduced the amount of radiation produced by as much as 80%. This means your child is being exposed to even less radiation during their X-rays than you did as a child.

The safety of dental X-rays is strictly controlled by both the manufacturers of the technology and your child’s pediatric dentist.

What safety measures are being used when my child has an X-ray taken?

Sometimes your child’s X-rays are taken so quickly that you may wonder exactly what is happening in terms of safety. Pediatric dental professionals make taking these special images look easy, but there are a few things going on you may not notice.

First your child’s pediatric dentist follows ADA and AAPD guidelines on what types of X-rays should be taken and how often they are required. Pediatric dentists follow a principle called ALARA, which is an acronym for ”as low as reasonably achievable.” This means using the lowest amount of radiation possible to get a clear picture only when necessary for treatment.

Additional safety measures are a bit more obvious, such as the protective lead apron over your child’s body. Only a single beam of radiation is used when X-rays are taken, making it quite localized to your child’s smile. However, the protective shield ensures the rest of your child’s body is protected regardless.

When does my child need X-rays taken?

Part of the ALARA principle is to take X-rays only when necessary for the care or treatment of your child’s oral health. The exact frequency of X-rays really depends on your individual child and their oral health history.

Kids with a history of tooth decay will get X-rays taken more often for preventive reasons than kids without a history of tooth decay. But on average, most kids have one set of X-rays taken  annually.

As an adult, you may only have full X-rays taken every one or two years or if a problem needs to be diagnosed. Kids generally have X-rays more often because they are in a state of development with baby teeth shedding and adult teeth erupting. With so much going on under the surface, a pediatric dentist needs to be able to make sure everything is developing properly.

Kids may also have additional X-rays taken for needed treatment like cavities or baby root canals.

What types of X-rays will my child’s pediatric dentist take?

There are five different types of X-rays pediatric dentists take to monitor and treat your child’s smile.

1. Bitewing

Bitewings are used to check for cavities and make sure fillings are properly sealed. These make monitoring decay and the health of fillings easy.

2. Periapical

Periapicals are usually used when a single tooth needs treatment since they focus on only one or two teeth. They show the whole structure of the tooth from root to crown.

3. Occlusal

Occlusals allow dentists to see the development of the upper and lower arches of your child’s smile. They give an idea of how your child’s bite is aligned.

4. Panoramic

Panoramic radiographs provide an entire picture of your child’s smile in a single X-ray. This includes the upper jaw, lower jaw, and all teeth above and below the gumline.

5. Cephalometric

Cephalometrics take a side-profile image of your child’s mouth and jaw. They are most often used when planning orthodontic treatment.

Is a dental X-ray really necessary or beneficial?

Yes! Your child’s dentist will never take unnecessary X-rays. They are required to monitor your child’s progress and support treatment.

The real X-ray benefit is that they give pediatric dentists a highly accurate and detailed view of your child’s smile, including the alignment of their teeth, hidden cavities or damage, and even tumors that may be lurking around their jaw. These things usually cannot be seen visually, meaning if X-rays weren’t available, a significant number of oral health problems couldn’t be diagnosed and treated early.

Simply put, X-rays directly benefit a pediatric dentist’s ability to examine, diagnose, treat, and monitor their patients. In turn, your child benefits from a higher level of care.

We Make Kids Smile provides safe X-rays and compassionate dental care to kids in southern Maryland.

You can trust the We Make Kids Smile dental care team to put your child’s safety first in every situation.

If your child is due for a six-month checkup and professional cleaning, give our Waldorf or Prince Frederick office a call to schedule an appointment. For booking outside of business hours, you can fill out our easy online form.

Do you have a question? We can help!

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