Dental X-rays – One Size Doesn’t Fit All
There has been coverage in the media regarding the safety of dental x-rays, especially in children. Our office is committed to providing the safest and highest level of care for your children. We are particularly sensitive to the risks of exposure to ionizing radiation, especially in children. Our office takes special precautions to minimize your child’s exposure to radiation.
Dental x-rays allow for early detection of cavities between the teeth. They also are helpful to determine the extent of decay and proximity to the nerve of the tooth. A dental x-ray may also show developmental anomalies, cysts, and tumors. It is important that the dentist weigh the benefits of detecting pathology with the risks of exposing a child to radiation. If an x-ray is indicated, it is the responsibility of the dentist to minimize the child’s exposure to radiation while obtaining a diagnostic image of the area of interest.
X-rays should not be taken at the same intervals for everyone. In fact, the interval between x-rays may even change throughout a person’s life. At Palos Pediatric Dentistry, x-rays are taken only when prescribed by a dentist. For children at high risk for decay, or who have had decay in the past, x-ray intervals may be as frequent as every six months. However, there are certainly children and adolescents who have a negative history of cavities and are at a much lower cavity risk. These patients may be able to go 24 to 36 months between x-rays. In reality, most people fall between these two extremes.
When an x-ray is indicated, we take every precaution possible to reduce your child’s exposure to radiation. First, we always use an x-ray apron with a thyroid collar. The thyroid gland is one of the more sensitive areas to radiation, and a thyroid collar helps to minimize the amount of radiation to the thyroid. Additionally, our office uses digital x-rays, which require a much smaller dose of radiation to obtain a diagnostic image. Finally, we use a device called a rectangular collimator. This reduces the area of exposure by nearly 40%.
A set of bitewing x-rays, most commonly used for cavity detection, exposes children to a small amount of radiation. Despite the small does, it would be negligent to brush it off as an insignificant concern. We are exposed to background radiation throughout our lifetime. The most significant source of background radiation is from the soil; cosmic radiation is the second largest source of background radiation. For perspective, a set of two bitewing radiographs is roughly equivalent to one-half day of background radiation, while a panoramic film can be equivalent to less than a week of background radiation. By prescribing x-rays based on clinical judgement and using precautions to reduce exposure, we make every attempt to minimize your child’s exposure to radiation at the dental office.