One of the most important diagnostic tools in dentistry is a radiograph (X-ray). Teeth are dense structures of bone that contain vital structures inside of them, including two layers of tooth structure in the crown of the tooth surrounding a chamber and canal, containing nerves and blood vessels. In an effort to best prevent the development of dental disease, radiographs are highly critical in making an appropriate diagnosis.
Radiographs (x-rays) are typically recommended once the contacts of the primary teeth are established. If the baby teeth have great spaces between them, radiographs are not typically needed at a young age unless there are areas of concern that need further evaluation, such as cavities. Once the contacts are established, routine monitoring of those contacts is recommended since we can no longer visualize those areas with our eyes and instruments.
We generally recommend starting dental radiographs when children are around the age of 2-3 years old. Your child’s unique situation will determine the appropriate time. The first set of radiographs consists of simple pictures of the upper and lower front teeth (occlusals or periapicals). This set will familiarize your child with the process of getting radiographs and help break the ice. Once the baby molar teeth in the back are touching one another, we then recommend routine periodic radiographs (bitewings) on a 6-12 month basis, determined by their caries risk.
When permanent teeth start coming in around the age of six, a panoramic radiograph is recommended to fully assess all of your child’s teeth, both primary and permanent, as well as the bone and supporting structures around them. This image allows us to evaluate the number of permanent and primary teeth present, the presence of missing or extra permanent teeth, the position of the permanent teeth in relation to the baby teeth, the health of surrounding structures in the head and neck region, and the presence or absence of dental or skeletal abnormalities.
We also understand that some people have a concern regarding the exposure of their children to radiation. We want to assure you that we are an office that understands your concern and we have adopted the philosophy of “Image Gently” and “ALARA – as low as reasonably achievable”. We do this by only taking a radiograph if it is medically beneficial or indicated for the accurate diagnosis of your child’s dental health. We also achieve this by using the lowest dose of radiation possible and the fastest speed digital sensors to capture the images we are obtaining. Occasionally images have to be retaken, as children sometimes are not the most compliant with radiographic imaging, but we attempt to do our best to obtain diagnostic images as easily as possible while minimizing exposure at the same time.
Our dentist will make recommendations for radiographs based off of your child’s risk for cavities. Imaging needs for each child will be determined on an individual basis, however, failure to agree or comply with the dentist’s recommendations for routine radiography, which is necessary to aid in accurate diagnosis of dental disease, could result in dismissal from the practice or referral to another dentist.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us today at (615) 614-2424 today.