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What parents need to know about x-rays

What are x-rays?

An x-ray is a way to take a picture of dense body parts such as bones or teeth. X-rays safely and painlessly pass through soft body tissue like skin, gums, or muscles to show a dentist (or health care provider) the inside of the dense body part so they can see what is going on.

Why are x-rays important?

When the dentist performs a routine examination, he or she cannot see every area of the mouth. That’s why they perform x-rays. After a full clinical examination, a dentist will recommend x-rays to see under the gums and inside of teeth. Specifically, they use x-rays to:

  • See if your child’s mouth has enough room for permanent teeth as they come in

  • Determine if your child’s primary teeth are falling out at a rate that matches the permanent teeth coming in

  • Check for wisdom teeth or other teeth that cannot emerge from the gums

  • Identify early signs of tooth decay

  • Check for developmental abnormalities like cysts or tumors

How often should your child get an x-ray?

X-rays are not necessary at each dental appointment. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), how often X-rays should be taken depends on your child’s age, health, family history, and signs or symptoms of decay or disease. For example, children may require X-rays more often than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing, and their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than adults.

Are x-rays safe?

Dental radiology (or x-rays) is considered very safe and low risk for children. Digital x-rays, the newest and safest form of radiography that pediatric dentists use, generate the minimal amount of radiation necessary to record an image. The heightened sensitivity of x-ray film has also reduced the amount of radiation required to record an accurate and precise image of the teeth and jaw structures, which decreases the amount of overall radiation exposure as well.

At your child’s next appointment

While it’s natural to have concerns for your child’s safety, x-rays have proven to provide benefits and minimal risks. And remember, the better your child takes care of their oral health with brushing and flossing each day, the less they’ll need x-rays.

If you have concerns, talk with us at your child’s next appointment. We can figure out the best plan for your child together.

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