There is so much conflicting information about x-rays, their safety and how often they should be used, so what is the truth? How can you know what is best for your child? Why are dental x-rays even necessary?
A dentist can learn a lot about the health of your child’s mouth based on visual inspection, but dental x-rays are important for many reasons. When your child’s teeth are close together x-rays allow their dentist to find cavities between the teeth before they become big and require much more complex procedures. X-rays also show the size of a cavity, and whether the tooth needs a filling or something more complex. Developing and erupting teeth can be monitored to verify that they are growing in correctly. Dental x-rays also help Dr. Culp assess the health of the bone around the teeth and monitor the areas around the roots of your child’s teeth. Many problems in the mouth are usually more affordable and easier to treat when found early. X-rays help with early diagnosis and in many cases are required to make the diagnosis. They can be the difference between a tooth needing a small filling or it requiring a root canal or extraction! X-rays are also used to evaluate damage to the teeth and mouth after an injury.
Is it still important to have them done every year, or are they needed less often?
Every child is unique, and their dentist will use their professional judgement to recommend x-rays based on your child’s medical and dental history, and a complete clinical examination. Cavity free children who practice good oral hygiene have a lower risk of tooth decay and can go as long as two years between dental x-rays. In children with high risk of tooth decay, x-rays may be recommended as often as every six months.
While your child’s first dental visit should occur in their first year, x-rays are not necessary this young unless their teeth are very close together or their dentist sees something indicating the need for it. Another reason a very young child would need dental x-rays is a mouth injury that may have caused damage to the teeth or bones of the jaw.
While there will be radiation exposure with any x-ray, dental x-rays give one of the lowest radiation doses in medicine and cause about the same exposure as you would get from a short airplane flight. Current methods focus the beam into a small area, to the size and shape of the sensor being used and minimize scattered radiation. Your child will also wear a lead apron and neck shield to provide additional protection against radiation.
Dr. Culp uses digital x-rays, which use a sensor instead of film and expose your child to far less radiation than a conventional x-ray. The images are generated with short exposure times and reduce radiation exposure by up to 80 percent. Digital x-rays also have a setting to decrease the exposure for smaller patients. If you have any questions or concerns about x-rays or why they are recommended for your child, we are happy to speak with you about it, so you can be confident that your child is receiving the best possible care.
It may be frightening to think about exposing your child to radiation from x-rays, but they are an important tool to keep your child’s mouth as healthy as possible. They can catch problems while they are small and inexpensive. Without x-rays, some of these problems can cause much more pain and damage, cost a lot more to repair and could even result in the loss of your child’s teeth. Digital x-rays and a trustworthy dentist who recommends x-rays based on the individual child’s needs, not as part of a regular routine, help reduce your child’s exposure while keeping the overall health of their mouth a priority. Additionally, you can do your part by teaching and helping your child to develop and maintain a good oral hygiene routine.
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.