X-Rays

HOW SAFE ARE DENTAL X-RAYS?

We are very careful to limit your child’s exposure to radiation. With the use of contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received is extremely small. In fact, the risk associated with exposure to a dental x-ray is lower than undetected and untreated dental concerns.

HOW CAN I LIMIT MY CHILD’S EXPOSURE TO RADIATION?

  1. Talk to your child’s dentist at each appointment, and ask whether x-rays are necessary.

  2. Digital x-rays are utilized at Pediatric Dental Specialists of West Michigan, significantly reducing radiation exposure.

  3. Children must wear lead aprons to block the body from exposure.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD MY CHILD HAVE X-RAYS?

Each child’s dental needs are unique, and therefore the dental radiographs needed for one child may differ from another child of the same age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, as well as the American Dental Association recommend that children have x-rays taken by age 3 to evaluate growth and development. This involves taking one x-ray of the upper front teeth and one of the lower front teeth, and one x-ray on each side – depending on how many teeth a child has and if the teeth are touching together. X-rays of upper and lower teeth do not need to be taken again at each checkup, unless the child has had trauma to a front tooth. X-rays of back teeth are taken at a minimum of once/year if the back molars are touching each other. This is the standard of care recommended by the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. If children are at high risk or are being monitored for dental conditions, radiographs may be required more frequently. The sides of the back teeth cannot be visualized with a dental exam, and often the only way to identify decay in these teeth is with an x-ray. Decay damages children’s teeth at a faster rate than permanent teeth, and when unnoticed or untreated can cause severe infection.

WHAT IF MY CHILD HAS NEVER HAD A CAVITY, DO THEY STILL NEED X-RAYS?

Dental Radiographs detect more than just cavities. These images can detect infections caused by trauma, and can give valuable information regarding the developing permanent teeth. Kid’s mouths change quickly as they grow, and x-rays give information about the health of unerupted permanent teeth, as well as the surrounding tissue and bone. The doctors use these x-rays to screen for diseases, tumors, missing/extra teeth, malpositioned teeth, and orthodontic planning.

MY CHILD HAS BRACES. DOES HE/SHE STILL NEED X-RAYS?

Dental radiographs may be taken at a check-up if your child has braces. If orthodontic wires are in, we may not be able to see between all of the teeth, and may elect to defer x-rays until the wires can be temporarily removed. Kids with braces are highly susceptible to decay due to high amounts of plaque accumulation due to difficulty brushing and flossing around wires and brackets. They are also more susceptible due to the limited diagnostic ability of x-rays with orthodontic wires in place. Therefore, it’s crucial to take x-rays as soon as braces have been removed, as cavities may have formed between the teeth during this time.

WILL X-RAYS ALWAYS BE TAKEN AT EACH VISIT?

No. X-rays are recommended only when necessary to evaluate and monitor your child’s oral health. The frequency is dependent on your child’s specific needs and risk of decay. Many times, two bitewing x-rays will be taken at your child’s regular visit to check for cavities that may have started between visits that are being monitored. If your child has had trauma to one or more teeth, x-rays may be indicated at each follow-up appointment to ensure infection of the root does not begin. Drs. Swanson and Kloostra welcome any questions you may have about your child’s needs.

COMPARING COMMON SOURCES OF RADIATION:

Source (Estimated Exposure – MSV*)

DENTAL RADIOGRAPHS

  • *BW .004 mSv

  • *PA .004 mSV

  • *PAN .007 mSV

MEDICAL RADIOGRAPHS

  • *Conebeam .009 mSv

  • *CT Scan Head 2.0 mSv

  • *CT Chest X-ray 8.0 mSv

  • *Mammogram .70 mSv

AVERAGE RADIATION FROM OUTER SPACE IN DENVER CO PER YEAR

*0.510 mSv

AVERAGE RADIATION IN THE UNITED STATES FROM NATURAL SOURCES PER YEAR

*3.000 mSv

*A millisievert (mSv) is a unit of measure that allows for common types of radiation to be compared to each other.