There is no hard and fast rule for when to start getting dental x-rays. Some children who may be at higher risk for dental problems (for example, those prone to baby bottle tooth decay or those with cleft lip/palate) should have x-rays taken earlier than others. Usually, most children will have had x-rays taken by the age of 5 or 6. As children begin to get their adult teeth (at about the age of 6), x-rays play an important role in helping your dentist see if all of the adult teeth are growing in the jaw, to look for bite problems, and to determine if teeth are clean and healthy.
What types of problems do x-rays help detect?
X-rays help your dentist diagnose problems in your teeth and jaws.
In adults, x-rays show:
- Decay, especially small areas of decay between teeth.
- Decay beneath existing fillings.
- Bone loss in the jaw.
- Changes in the bone or root canal due to infection.
- Condition and position of teeth to help prepare for tooth implants, braces, dentures, or other dental procedures.
- Abscesses (an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth).
- Cysts and some types of tumors.
In children, x-rays determine:
- If decay is developing.
- If there is enough space in the mouth to fit all incoming teeth.
- If wisdom teeth are developing.
Are dental x-rays safe?
The amount of radiation emitted from x-rays is extremely small.
Advances in dentistry — such as x-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to a small area; high speed x-rays; use of lead-lined, full-body aprons; and federal laws that require accuracy and safety checks for x-ray machines — are a few of the improvements that limit the amount of radiation patients receive.