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Xrays, also called radiographs, are a valuable diagnostic tool. Xrays help the dentist to:

  • See how your child’s teeth are erupting (coming into the mouth)
  • See the number, size and position of teeth that are still inside the gums
  • Find out whether there are missing teeth or extra teeth
  • Monitor mouth and teeth injuries
  • Determine whether the teeth or mouth are infected
  • Prepare for braces and other orthodontic treatment
  • Detect problems that can’t be seen with a visual exam
  • Identify bone diseases

There is no standard timetable for when your child’s mouth should be Xrayed. The need varies with the child’s development and dental health. If your child has had many cavities and fillings or has a high risk of tooth decay, your dentist might suggest Xrays every six months. This may continue until the problem is under control. Whether Xrays are needed also depends on how well the child brushes and flosses, and the child’s diet.

Other children may not need Xrays taken as often. If Xrays aren’t taken when they are needed, problems can become worse.

There are four types of Xrays our office – may use for your child, depending on the goal:

Bitewing Xrays (also called cavity-detecting Xrays) — These Xrays are used to view the areas between teeth that cannot be seen directly. They show where cavities are starting. These Xrays are needed only after the teeth in the back of the mouth are contacting each other. In some children, this doesn’t happen until the first permanent molar (also called the 6-year molar) has erupted.

Periapical Xrays — These are used to view the entire crowns and roots of one, two or three adjacent teeth. The X-rays also will show the supporting bone structure of the teeth. This type of Xray lets the dentist see a child’s permanent teeth growing below the baby teeth. It also is used to look for abscesses and gum disease.

Panoramic Xrays — These Xrays are used to view all of the teeth on one film. They also show the upper and lower jaws, the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) and the sinuses above the upper teeth. They are often used if a child has hurt his or her face, has orthodontic problems, or is mentally or physically disabled. Panoramic Xrays, unlike other types, do not require a film to be put in the child’s mouth. This is helpful for children who gag easily or who have small mouths. This Xray has to be exposed for 12 to 18 seconds. The patient must be able to sit still for that whole time.

Occlusal Xrays — These are used to view most of the upper or lower teeth on one film. This is useful when the dentist does not have a panoramic Xray machine.

Dental Xrays are very safe and expose your child to a minimal amount of radiation. In fact, your child will be exposed to more radiation just by playing outside for 30 minutes than they will because of having an x-ray taken! When all standard safety precautions are taken, today’s Xray equipment is able to eliminate unnecessary radiation and allows the dentist to focus the Xray beam on a specific part of the mouth. High-speed film enables the dentist to reduce the amount of radiation the patient receives. A lead body apron or shield will be used to protect the thyroid gland.

Source: Columbia University School of Dental Medicine

At Kitsap Kid’s Dentistry, we recomment yearly xrays as part of a comprehensive preventative program. Our advanced digital imaging equipment captures high quality radiographs while utilizing only minimal radiation. By using diagnostic radiographs to catch issues as they crop up, we strive to help our patients  avoid unnecessary pain, school absence, permanent tooth loss, and other side effects to the child’s health. Additionally, the cost of yearly xrays is typically less than the cost to treat issues that would otherwise go undetected in their early stages. If you have any questions regarding the safety or importance of dental xrays, please don’t hesitate to ask a member of our team!

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