A dental x-ray (also known as a radiograph) is an image of your teeth made by a machine that uses low radiation levels to capture an interior look at your teeth and your gums. Dental x-rays are a helpful tool for oral care at any age. But they’re especially important for children as their adult teeth grow in.
However, since dental x-rays do include some radiation, many caregivers wonder: Are dental x-rays safe for my children? Straight from our expert Rhoades DDS team, here’s why today’s dental x-rays are significantly safer, and a smart move for your child’s dental health.
Digital X-Rays vs. Film X-Rays
Like all x-rays, there is some radiation exposure included in dental x-rays. However, these exposure levels are so low that they are generally considered safe for children. Modern technology has made today’s dental x-rays safer than they’ve ever been before! Across most dental offices, digital x-rays have replaced the older film x-ray machines.
Digital x-rays are significantly safer because they emit over 80% less radiation than their film counterparts. For comparison, the amount of radiation a child is exposed to from a set of digital x-rays is less than the level of radiation they’re exposed to naturally in one day, just during everyday life!
When Do Kids Need to Get Dental X-Rays?
Dental x-rays are generally performed once per year, but they may be done more frequently if your dentist is monitoring any concerns. If you’re a brand new patient at a dental office, you’ll likely have a new set of dental x-rays done so that your new office’s team can confidently begin your oral care.
In many cases, children need dental x-rays more often than adults because the growth of their permanent teeth needs close monitoring. These images will help your dentist determine if any baby teeth need to be pulled, or if your child may need retainers or braces in the future.
It is also vital for children to have x-rays done because they can detect issues hidden beneath the surface of the tooth’s enamel and below the gumline, too. These x-rays can be used for both diagnostic and preventative purposes by helping your dentist spot issues in your child’s mouth long before they become a problem, such as misaligned wisdom teeth or gum disease. Early detection is critical in creating an effective treatment plan for these issues!
How to Prepare
No special preparation is needed for dental x-rays. We recommend brushing your teeth before your appointment, as most x-rays are done before the professional cleaning takes place. (This will help create a more hygienic environment for our team to work!)
When it comes time for the dental x-ray, your dentist will place a lead covering over your chest, abdomen, and pelvic region to help make sure that only your teeth, jaw, and gums are exposed to the radiation. Before coming in, it may be helpful to explain to children that there are multiple different types of dental x-rays, each of which captures a slightly different view inside of your mouth. There are many different types, including:
- Bitewing: Commonly used to check for cavities between your teeth
- Occlusal: Checks to see how your top and bottom teeth line up
- Panoramic: Captures your teeth and jaw in a 360-degree view
- Periapical: Focuses in on two entire teeth, from root to crown
No matter what type of dental x-ray is being done, there’s no reason to be nervous! A dental hygienist will walk you through every step of the process, ensure you are comfortable, and explain exactly what is being done.
Does My Child Really Need Dental X-Rays?
It’s true that lower-risk children may require x-rays less frequently. This depends on how diligently they maintain good oral health at home, during the months in between their dental appointments. By encouraging your child to brush twice a day and use fluoride toothpaste, you may help reduce the number of dental x-rays they need throughout childhood. (This may also help avoid expensive treatments later!)
Even if your child hasn’t been experiencing any symptoms, some issues may lurk just below the surface. X-rays help dentists identify problems ranging from tiny cavities to tooth decay; this is why they’re such an important tool to use in conjunction with other dental care. And with lower radiation levels than ever, dental x-rays offer far more benefits than drawbacks for children.
Scheduling Your Child’s Next Dental Appointment
Are you looking for a friendly and experienced family dentist in the Kansas City area? Here at Rhoades DDS, we diligently ensure that all dental x-rays serve a specific purpose and that all children receive safe and efficient care. Contact us today to book your child’s next visit!