Are Dental X-rays Safe for Kids?

Pediatric Dentistry for Avon, Connecticut

X-rays are useful diagnostic tools that can help dentists identify many problems, such as cavities, impacted or cracked teeth, and jawbone abnormalities. Many parents are concerned about the health risks of using x-rays on young children. If your child’s dentist recommends x-rays, you should understand the potential risks as well as the benefits.

How X-rays Work

X-rays use invisible electromagnetic radiation to penetrate tissues. The amount of energy that is absorbed depends on the density of the tissue. Differences in the amount of energy absorbed create the image that helps the dentist diagnose a problem.

The dentist or an assistant will put a film or digital sensor in your child’s mouth on the side of the tooth opposite the x-ray machine. Hard tissues, such as teeth and bone, block most of the x-rays and create a white image. If there is a cavity, the x-rays will pass through the decayed tissue and create a darker image.

Risks Associated with X-rays

X-rays can affect tissues, especially ones that are growing at a rapid rate, as they are in children. X-rays have the potential to cause changes in cells that can eventually lead to cancer. This is why doctors and dentists are careful in their decisions on whether or not to use x-rays, especially in children. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry both recommend that a dentist only use x-rays after performing a clinical examination and reviewing a child’s medical history and past use of x-rays.

How Children Are Protected from Health Risks

If a dentist believes it is necessary to use x-rays on a child, he or she will follow the ALARA principle, which is an acronym that stands for “as low as reasonably achievable.” Modern high-speed film and digital x-ray equipment allow dentists to take x-rays using extremely low doses of radiation. For example, a set of bitewings, which are used to diagnose decay in back teeth, expose a child to just 2 microsieverts of radiation from two x-rays. Humans are exposed to about 10 microsieverts of background radiation from the environment every day.

X-ray machines use a single beam of radiation, rather than scattered beams, which improves safety. For dental x-rays, the beam is restricted to the size and shape of the film. X-rays also have short exposure times to limit the amount of radiation exposure. Any parts of the body not being x-rayed are shielded to protect them from radiation.

Make an Appointment with a Pediatric Dentist

If your child has a toothache or you have another concern, make an appointment with CT Pediatric Dentistry. We will discuss the best course of treatment with you. If x-rays are needed, we will use the lowest dose of radiation necessary and take other precautions to protect your child. Schedule an appointment today.

West Hartford: 860-523-4213
North Windham: 860-456-0506
Unionville: 860-673-3900

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The Kids' Dentists of CT Pediatric Dentistry   (Click their photo for more info)

David Epstein
CT Pediatric Dentist
David Epstein
A.B., D.D.S., M.S.D.

22 Jan 2022 11:33 PM