X-Ray Use and Safety

Since every child is unique, the need for dental x-ray films varies from child to child. Films are taken only after reviewing your child’s medical and dental histories and performing a clinical examination, and only when they are likely to yield information that a visual examination cannot.

In general, children need x-rays more often than adults. Their mouths grow and change rapidly. They are more susceptible than adults to tooth decay. For children with a high risk of tooth decay, the AAPD recommends x-ray examinations every six months to detect cavities developing between the teeth. Children with a low risk of tooth decay require x-rays less frequently.

Usage and Frequency

X-ray films detect much more than cavities. For example, x-rays may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. X-rays allow dentists to diagnose and treat conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable and affordable.

X-ray films are recommended only when necessary to evaluate and monitor your child’s oral health. The frequency of x-ray films is determined by your child’s individual needs. If your child’s previous dentist obtained x-ray films, request copies be sent to your new pediatric dentist to help reduce radiation exposure.


Pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental x-ray examination is extremely small. In fact, dental x-rays represent a far smaller risk than undetected and untreated dental problems.

Lead body aprons and shields help protect your child. Today’s equipment filters out unnecessary x-rays and restricts the x-ray beam to the area of interest. High-speed film, digital x-rays, and proper shielding assure that your child receives a minimal amount of radiation exposure.

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