X-Ray Concerns For Your Child

As a parent, one of your main responsibilities is to protect your child from danger.  Of course, regular childrens dentist check-ups prevent your child from developing cavities, but could yearly dental x-rays be a cause for concern?

Why are dental x-rays necessary?

Yearly dental x-rays are important for a number of reasons.  First, many dental problems are not visible to the naked eye especially in their early stages.  

Identify Decay -  Regular dental x-rays allows the dentist to identify decay between the teeth.  Likewise, your dentist can see decay occurring beneath existing fillings.  Catching decay early can mean the difference between a filling and a more invasive and costly root canal.  

Stop Bone Loss -  Dentists can also check x-rays for bone loss associated with gum disease--an issue that children don't often face but catching it early is one benefit of regular x-rays.  

Identify infection -  X-rays can reveal infection near the tip of tooth roots.  

Prepare for other procedures - Viewing x-rays help dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons get the lay of the land before performing other procedures.  For instance, if you child needs braces, x-rays will confirm their need to your insurance provider as well as provide a point of reference during the procedure.

What risks are associated with dental x-rays?

Some people fear that exposure to radiation during x-rays can cause major negative side effects such as cancer, genetic damage, and tumors.  However, dental x-rays involve extremely low exposure to radiation.

Dental x-rays give your child a dose of 5.0 microsieverts of radiation.  By comparison, taking a flight from LA to New York will deliver 40 microsieverts of radiation as being higher in elevation exposes one to greater levels.  Furthermore, smoking one and a half packs of cigarettes a day is a dose of 36,000 microsieverts (or 36 millisieverts).  Therefore, the exposure to radiation during dental x-rays is negligible.

Overall, most studies reveal that the higher the level of exposure to radiation, the greater the risks to your health.  Too much radiation may cause nausea, bleeding, hair loss, and even death.  However, none of these side effects occur with regular dental x-rays.  

Which type of Dental X-rays is Right for Your Child?

A number of different types of dental x-rays exist, but not all x-rays are equal in how much radiation they expose your child to.  

Bite-wing x-rays:  These are two-dimensional x-rays.  The American Dental Association recommends bite-wings every 6-12 months for children.  However, if your child is at low risk for decay, you can request the x-rays be done every 12-24 months.    

Cone-beam scanners:  Delivering high definition three dimensional images, many dentists prefer these to traditional bite-wings.  Many dentists feel that cone-beam scanners show significantly more details than other types.  However, new research reveals that cone beam scanners deliver much higher doses of radiation.  The American Academy of Endodontists has stated that cone-beam scanners should not be used for screening purposes only.  Rather, other clinical symptoms and signs should exist to justify use of cone-beam scanners.  

Digital x-rays:  Digital x-rays deliver less radiation than traditional x-rays done with film.   

Speak with your dentist if you have any concerns about x-rays for your child.  Find out which type of x-rays your dentist prefers and communicate openly your preferences in order to protect your child while ensuring their bright smile lasts for years to come.