What are x-rays for children at the dentist used for? | Dental Treatment Guide

X-rays are a common tool employed by dentists to visualise your teeth and the surrounding jaws and may also be referred to as radiographs. They are essential for monitoring the aspects of oral health that cannot be seen in a general visual examination. These x-rays can help identify and diagnose oral problems before they get too serious and so they can be dealt with prior to further deterioration. This can subsequently lead to you saving money, time and pain.

What are the uses of dental x-rays on children?

One key use of dental x-rays performed on children is to check for any oral decay, disease or infection and if there is some present, it can be rectified before it progresses any further. Although this is an important factor with x-rays, they are primarily used to observe the teeth's progression as milk teeth grow, fall out and are replaced by permanent adult teeth. This aspect of x-ray use involves observing how many teeth are still inside the gums as well as how big they are and if they are in the correct position. By doing so, the dentist can also determine whether any teeth are missing or alternatively if the child has extra teeth or wisdom teeth, which may lead to future problems with overcrowding.

Alternatively, x-rays may be used in order to track how jaw or teeth injuries are healing. This can be very useful as it can lead to further treatments that may speed up the healing process or if healing is not occurring appropriately, further intervention can be employed.

X-rays are not always used in children for diagnosis. Sometimes a dentist will take an x-ray as a step in preparation for the inserted of dental braces to straighten the child's teeth out. The x-rays can then be shown to the child's orthodontist who can analyse them and perform the appropriate treatments.

How often should X-rays be done?

There is no set amount of times that x-rays should be taken. It is very much dependent of the child's dental history as well as the condition that is being monitored. The frequency of x-rays is also determined by how well the teeth are being cared for in terms of brushing, flossing and diet.

Generally speaking, x-rays will probably be suggested by your dentist every six months if your child suffers from oral problems such as cavities or has had fillings done. Also, some children are predisposed to being more at risk of developing tooth decay; in such cases, the dentist will probably recommend bi-annual X-rays too. It is likely that these regular X-rays will be taken until the issue is either under control or completely resolved.

Children that do not suffer from oral problems such as gum disease will not be required to have X-rays as often. In such cases, the dentist may choose to take an x-ray every two years or so just to monitor the child's oral health. This allows the dentist to keep track of any changes as the child develops.

Types of Dental X-Rays

There are five different types of x-rays that may be employed by the dentist. The type of x-ray used depends on what the dentist is aiming to discover and analyse.

Firstly, Bitewing X-rays are primarily used to look at the points that lie in between each individual tooth, which cannot be seen in a normal examination. These X-rays can also be called cavity-detecting X-rays as they identify the areas where cavities are beginning to form. Bitewing X-rays are only used with the teeth at the back of the child's mouth are interacting, which sometimes only occurs when the first adult molar erupts from the gum.

Alternatively, the dentist may use a periapical X-ray to assess the entirety of two or three teeth that lie next to each other. The dentist is able to see both the crowns and the roots of these teeth as well as the bones that underlie and support them. This type of X-ray give the dentist the ability to observe as to whether there are adult teeth present and growing underneath the temporary milk teeth. Another purpose of this X-ray can be to examine and identify the presence of gum disease and abscesses.

To look at the entire set of the child's teeth as well as both jaws, the dentist may take a panoramic X-ray. Often this type of X-ray is used if the child has suffered a facial injury, is disabled either physically or mentally, or has problem that require orthodontic treatment. There is a key advantage to panoramic X-rays for use with children is that there is no need to insert the actual film into the child's mouth as with other dental X-rays. This is especially advantageous if the child has a rather small mouth or is prone to gagging rather easily.

If the dentist is not in possession of a machine that takes panoramic X-rays, they may instead take an occlusal X-ray. These X-rays allow the dentist to be able to visualise the majority of the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw on a single film.

Finally, the dentist may take an orthodontic X-ray, which can sometimes be known as lateral skull or cephalometric X-rays. This particular X-ray method is employed to view the entire side of a child's head. This is useful to a dentist who is aiming to examine how the jaws are growing as well as how the bones are positioned in association with the skull. Orthodontists often use orthodontics X-rays to try and diagnose precise problems, which can subsequently lead to the development of an appropriate treatment strategy.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

There are no safety concerns associated with dental X-rays. This is due to the insurance that only the absolute minimum amount of radiation is used during the X-ray process. This is warranted with the use of specialised equipment that eradicates any excess radiation that is not required and focussed the X-ray onto a particular position of the mouth. The process is extremely quick, which further limits the amount of radiation that your child is exposed to. Also, to protect the thyroid gland and reproductive region a lead shield used.