In addition to spotting cavities early, X-rays are used to examine erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate injury, or plan orthodontic treatment.

In general, children need X-rays more often than adults because their mouths grow and change rapidly. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends X-ray examinations every six months for children with a high risk of tooth decay. Children with a low risk of tooth decay require X-rays less frequently.

X-rays provide an important tool that shows the condition of your teeth, roots, jaw, and overall facial bone composition. X-rays can reveal the exact location of impacted and unerupted teeth, the presence or degree of periodontal disease, abscesses and many abnormal growths such as cysts and tumors. X-rays also help the dentist pinpoint the exact location of cavities and other signs of disease that may not be possible to detect through a visual examination.

In most cases, new patients require a full set of mouth X-rays. Follow-up visits may require X-rays to monitor the conditions of your gums.

X-rays are critical diagnostic tools our office uses to pinpoint cavities and spot other kinds of problems or conditions not visible to the naked eye.

There are three types of radiographs (or X-rays) that are routinely taken:

  • Bitewings – used to help diagnose cavities between the teeth.
  • Periapical X-rays – show the entire tooth, including the root and surrounding bone. These are useful in diagnosing an abscess, impacted tooth, or bone loss from periodontal disease.
  • Panoramic X-ray – a panoramic photograph that allows the dentist to see a broad view of the entire structure of the mouth, including the jaw, in a single image. Within one large film, panoramic X-rays reveal all of the upper and lower teeth and parts of the jaw. Panoramic X-rays are a very useful screening tool assessing wisdom teeth, and can reveal abnormal growths or cysts in the jaw bone.

Radiation concerns

Dentists are sensitive to your concerns about exposure to radiation from X-rays, and are trained to prescribe them when they are appropriate. State-of-the-art technology and staying abreast of the latest diagnostic advances allow us to know which procedures and X-ray films can minimize exposure to radiation.

All of the necessary precautions are taken to minimize your child’s exposure to X-rays during a typical dental diagnostic procedure. Patients always wear a lead apron and thyroid collar to avoid unnecessary radiation to other parts of the body. Not everyone needs X-rays taken on a regular basis. However, some patients may need to have X-rays taken in order to address suspected problems in their teeth or tooth structures, gums, or jaw bones.

The ionizing radiation that you receive from one dental X-ray is substantially less that the radiation you receive every day in the sun. Advances in technology, such as higher-speed X-ray film and measurement devices, have made dental X-rays even safer today. This is not to say that any unnecessary radiation, even a small amount, can harm the tissues in your body. Because X-rays can diagnose certain conditions and help a condition from becoming worse; the benefit outweighs the risk.

X-ray films detect much more than cavities. For example, they often are needed to reveal erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, treat an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment.

Concerned about your kids having dental x-rays?

Let us help calm your fears! We are concerned about radiation too, so we want you to have the facts you need to make an educated decision when it comes to your children.

We want you to know the truth about dental x-rays. Just to break it down for you, below is chart of the radiation doses you receive from different x-rays.

An annual maximum occupational exposure for radiation workers in the United States is 5,000 millirems (measure for radiation). When you spread low doses out over a period of time, it’s not as destructive to the body because it has time to recover.

High dose group includes:

  • Mammography 1000
  • Pelvimetry 875
  • Lower spine 450
  • Middle spine 347
Medium dose group includes:

  • Abdomen 147
  • Ribs 143
  • Pelvis 133
  • Skull 78
  • Hip 72
Low dose group includes:

  • Neck 52
  • Femur 21
  • Full mouth dental series (digital) less than 1
  • Dental bitewing (digital) less than .05

To put this in perspective, you would need to have 2,000 dental x-rays to equal the radiation in 1 mammogram. To reach that maximum safety dose, we would have to take approximately 10,000 dental x-rays. On average people receive 3 dental bitewings worth of radiation a day just from being outside in the sun, around concrete buildings or roads. There are some studies produces by radiologist saying that low doses may actually reduce cancer risks. Knowing how low the dose is, let’s talk about the benefits.

Here are just a few benefits of dental x-rays:

  • Detecting hidden decay
  • Detecting the presence of a cyst or tumor
  • Determining the presence of permanent teeth
  • Detecting oral cancer problems
  • Detecting root involvement with the sinuses
  • To help determine whether or not to remove primary teeth
  • To determine if extra teeth are present

The list goes on and on. I hope you feel safe and secure when your child gets his or her next set of dental x-rays!

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