Dental x-rays (radiographs) are a very important and necessary piece of your dental exams. X-rays are taken to diagnose conditions that your dentist is not able to diagnose clinically.
The safety of x-rays is often questioned by parents when they are recommended for your child. Many parents are concerned about the amount of radiation their child may be exposed to. The dental x-rays that we suggest as part of our treatment require a very low level of radiation. Specific x-ray techniques and protection measures are used to limit radiation and achieve the principle of ALARA, making sure radiation exposure is “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” Therefore, the potentially negative risks of radiation, such as cancer, are significantly reduced. Dental x-ray units used today are designed to give off as little radiation as possible. Digital film processing allows us to use even lower amounts of radiation to achieve our images. Patients also wear a protective apron and thyroid collar to protect all of the patient’s major organs.
When taking dental x-rays, the benefit of diagnosis outweighs the risks of radiation. X-rays are able to detect conditions such as:
- Decay (especially in between the teeth)
- Recurrent decay
- Tooth infections/abscesses
- Abnormalities in tooth development
- Congenitally missing teeth
- Impacted teeth or path of eruption
- Supernumerary (extra) teeth
- Tumors or cysts within the jaw
- Periodontal disease or bone loss
- Tooth and jaw trauma and fractures
- Internal or external resorption
It is important that your child has dental x-rays taken. The frequency of x-rays depends on the patient’s needs, dental history and the dentist’s recommendations. Children require x-rays more often than adults due to the constant development of teeth and growing jaw. Kids are also more susceptible to tooth decay than adults since the teeth are smaller and the protective layer (enamel) is much thinner.
According to the American Dental Association, children with visible clinical caries and who have an increased risk of cavities should have dental x-rays taken every 6 to 12 months. Brushing and flossing habits, incipient decay, previous fillings or crowns, and diet are some factors that increase a child’s risk for decay.
If dental x-rays are not taken when recommended, your dentist is not able to complete a thorough exam. Therefore, conditions may go undiagnosed and eventually lead to infections, serious cavities, root canals, crowns, or even tooth loss. If you have any concerns or questions, please address them with the dental hygienist or Dr. Margaret Miller.