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Why Do We Take Dental X-Rays of Your Child’s Teeth?

Written by Torrey Hills Dental

Dental X-Rays

Regular checkups with your family dentist in Carmel Valley will help your child stay ahead of many preventable dental problems. From gentle, thorough cleanings to comprehensive dental exams, routinely monitoring the development of your child’s mouth makes it easier to intercept possible issues while they’re still small (and well before they become significant issues.) Pediatric dental X-rays are an integral piece of this puzzle and an essential tool in your child’s “routine” checkup. 

Importance of Dental X-rays for Children

Digital teeth X-rays make it possible for your dentist to see areas that aren’t visible during a clinical exam. Areas between the teeth, just inside the tooth enamel, or around the roots of teeth, are common areas that can become infected. 

With a pediatric dental X-ray, we can spot problems like:

  • Impacted adult teeth
  • Cysts within the bone
  • Abscessed teeth
  • Tooth decay
  • Missing teeth
  • Pathology or cancer
  • Atypical tooth development

Are Dental X-rays Safe for Children?

Absolutely. Today’s digital X-rays use up to 90% less radiation than the traditional film X-rays most of us received in the past. Digital X-ray technology exposes patients to even less radiation than you would get from spending a day out in the sun or taking an airplane flight from coast to coast. It’s that low!

You might wonder, “Well then, why all of the precautions?” It’s simple. Our goal is to keep your child’s (and our staff’s) exposure as low as reasonably possible. We use lead aprons to shield organs like their thyroid gland and reproductive tissues from any potential scatter radiation, as those are the ones that are generally more susceptible to any secondary exposure. 

Types of X-rays

Depending on the age of your child, we may use different types of X-ray techniques to assess various areas of their oral anatomy. A few examples include:

Occlusal Films — One of the first X-rays we may take on your child is an occlusal film. These easy X-rays allow us to monitor the eruption and placement of their front teeth during early development. 

Periapicals (PA’s) — Any time we need to see the entire length of a specific tooth, we take a PA X-ray. This film captures the anatomy of the whole tooth and the immediate surrounding areas to help us determine if there is an abscess, resorbing root, or cyst affecting the root area of certain teeth. PA’s are generally taken on a case-by-case basis when there is a concern. 

Bitewings — Most cavities form between the back teeth or in the deep grooves on the chewing surfaces of your child’s molars. We use bitewing X-rays to capture all of these cavity-prone back teeth quickly and in only one or two images. These X-rays show the areas just above the gum line on the upper and lower teeth together. 

Panoramics (Pano) — This full-mouth film shows your child’s entire upper and lower jaw, all of the teeth, and even their TMJ joints. We typically use panoramic X-rays to evaluate eruption patterns of permanent teeth, potentially impacted teeth, and to pre-screen for possible orthodontic complications. It’s common to have one taken when there’s a combination of adult and baby teeth in your child’s mouth (usually around age 7), and once every 3-5 years thereafter. 

The Danger of Skipping X-rays

X-rays provide your child’s dentist with the tools to intercept issues early. Without their diagnostic help, common problems can evolve into complex treatment needs. For example, a small cavity can easily be filled. But waiting to take an X-ray until the tooth hurts can compromise the tooth as it may have already abscessed, requiring more invasive treatment. Dental X-rays provide us with a whole picture for better long-term preventative care. 

Looking for a Family Dentist in Carmel Valley?

Our family dentist near you makes it easy to access comprehensive children’s dentistry in a fun, friendly atmosphere. At Torrey Hills Dental, our team is committed to making sure that every child has the opportunity to enjoy healthy teeth for life. Contact us today to reserve an appointment

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