Pediatric Dental X-rays
Proudly serving Newton MA and surrounding towns.
Part of your child’s exam and treatment plan will include a set of X-rays. We usually begin taking X-rays once your child has several teeth and is able to sit still for a few minutes at a time. X-rays provide us with a comprehensive view of their mouth, making it possible to screen for common issues before they’re evident in other ways.
Most children get their first X-ray sometime during their late toddler years or during preschool, before they lose their first tooth. Much of it will depend on your child’s individual comfort and maturity.
Are X-rays Safe for My Child?
Absolutely. Today’s digital X-rays use as much as 90% less radiation than conventional radiographs taken a few decades ago. When you compare radiation from everyday factors, you’re actually exposed to more radiation on a cross-country airline flight or a day in the sun than you are from a set of dental X-rays.
But you might still be asking, “Why does my child have to wear a lead apron?”, or “Why is the assistant/hygienist stepping out of the room if X-rays are safe?” Those are both great questions. The reasoning behind these protective measures is to reduce cumulative radiation exposure. That is, the amount of radiation your body absorbs over time. Even though dental X-rays are safe, you wouldn’t want to be exposed to them all day every day, which is why our staff stand behind the wall. And to safeguard your child’s reproductive organs — which are the tissues most sensitive to radiation — we place a lead apron over them to catch any potential scatter radiation. It’s just good practice!
Why Does My Child Need Dental X-rays?
No matter how well we visually examine your child’s teeth, there will always be a risk for conditions in spaces we cannot see. Tooth decay is the most common example. It can lurk just below the chewing surface at the bottom of deep grooves, or between teeth where they touch. Neither space can be cleared with a visual exam, especially if the cavity is still small.
Impacted teeth, missing teeth, cysts, and abscesses are similar. These complications are easy to screen for with X-rays, but clinically they may not become evident until your child is in pain or years of development have already passed.
Safe digital X-rays make it possible to intercept dental issues sooner. That way treatment can be interceptive, therapeutic, and minimally invasive. Delaying proper diagnosis frequently extends the complexity (and costs) of treating common oral conditions.
How Often are Dental X-rays Taken?
Dental X-rays are taken on an as-needed basis. Children who are at a higher risk for disease may need them as frequently as twice a year, but most children only need a set once per year. Larger full-mouth films are taken less frequently, such as every 3-5 years.
Types of Pediatric Dental X-rays
Occlusal — Some of the first X-rays a child will have are easy-to-take occlusal films. These images capture the front teeth and unerupted adult teeth in those spaces.
Periapical — Any time we need to evaluate the entire root and root tip, a periodical X-ray is used. These longer images capture the full tooth, making it possible to screen for abscesses or other root-related infections.
Bitewing — Since a large portion of cavities form between the teeth, it’s essential to use X-rays to examine these spaces on a regular basis. Bitewing X-rays capture the anatomical crowns (portion above the gums) of upper and lower teeth at the same time, giving dentists insight into the child’s cavity risk.
Panoramic (Full Mouth) — As your child gets a little older and their adult teeth are starting to erupt (or if we’re checking on wisdom teeth) a panoramic film can show us their entire oral anatomy at once. Panoramic films are essential for orthodontic screenings, assessing impacted teeth and cysts, and overall oral development. But even though they show the entire mouth, they don’t replace the need for higher resolution bitewing X-rays.
Does My Insurance Pay for X-rays?
Most dental insurance plans include intermittent X-rays in your preventative care coverage. That means they’re typically covered at 100%. However, there are occasional exceptions to the rule. Fortunately, dental X-ray costs are quite modest, making even emergency films something that will fit into most budgets.
Schedule a Checkup Every Six Months
Most diagnostic X-rays are taken during your child’s checkups (as needed.) To avoid unnecessary emergencies or tooth pain, plan to bring your child in for a checkup every six months. Call (617) 527-6061 or request an appointment online.