X-rays are an important part of all dental care, including pediatric dentistry. They let us know when something’s wrong and help us keep track of development as your child grows. But not every kid needs an X-ray at every check-up. Since X-rays use low levels of radiation, we’re conservative about when and why we use them for your child. Instead of taking a one size fits all approach, we save X-rays for when they’re truly needed.
Why Do Kids Need Dental X-rays?
Children’s mouths are growing and changing, and their dentist needs to stay up to date. Kids are also more likely to get tooth decay than adults, so pediatric dentists need to be especially vigilant. Catching cavities early is important, so if a young child has a history of decay in their baby teeth or other risk factors, your dentist may need to do X-rays more often. But for children with healthy teeth and low risk, imaging can be less frequent. And it’s not just about cavities. As the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry points out, X-rays can also help dentists check for erupting teeth, check the mouth after an injury and evaluate the need for orthodontic care.
How Often Should My Child Get X-rays?
With new information about the risks and benefits of X-rays, we’ve found that the best practice is to make decisions about imaging on a child by child basis. We consider every child’s needs, history and other factors when we decide whether an X-ray is needed. With high-risk preschoolers, we may do images every six months, while for a healthy, low-risk 4-year-old, we may go a year or even two. At that age, we can usually make a solid assessment simply with a regular oral exam. Once permanent teeth come in, it gets harder to evaluate without imaging so we’ll likely move to once a year or more frequently as needed. There’s a lot of development going on in the elementary and teen years, and we need to consider alignment, spacing and potential orthodontic issues when deciding whether imaging is needed.
Are Dental X-rays Safe for Kids?
X-rays use low levels of radiation to capture images of your child’s teeth and bones. These levels are considered safe, especially when precautions are taken: according to the American Dental Association, two dental bitewing X-rays represent about the same level of radiation exposure as a four-hour airline flight. However, because of some of the potential dangers associated with more frequent exposure to radiation and more intense imaging techniques, medical and dental groups are urging doctors and dentists to be conservative in using X-rays and make sure they’re using them when they’re truly needed.
How Does My Pediatric Dentist Help Keep X-rays Safe?
One of the most important aspects of keeping X-rays safe is applying what the ADA calls “imaging gently.” This means mindfully and thoughtfully deciding when and how we use imaging techniques like X-rays. We can often tell a lot by just looking into your child’s mouth, but we do need X-rays for the things we can’t see. Your pediatric dentist will go over your child’s medical and dental history and do a hands-on exam. Then we’ll decide whether imaging is needed. Some other precautions we use to keep X-rays safe include:
- Body aprons and collars to protect sensitive areas from radiation
- Lower exposure time for children
- Modern equipment that allows quicker imaging
One of the upsides of choosing a pediatric dentist for your child is that everything, including X-ray equipment, is designed with children and their safety in mind.
Dental X-rays and Your Child: A Mindful Approach
At NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, every child is an individual. We make all decisions about your child’s oral health care based on their unique needs. We take imaging very seriously, keeping in mind each child’s medical and dental history and considering a range of risk factors. Your child’s well-being is a priority, and our practice keeps safety in mind with every X-ray we take. Our modern, child-focused equipment and techniques also allow us to offer the safest approach to necessary imaging. Of course, we involve parents every step of the way and invite you to talk with our team about any questions or concerns you have.