Part of your child’s dental treatment will include dental radiography. This important tool allows the dentist to see the extent of a condition or even reveal what may not be visible with the oral exam alone. This allows the dentist to make a more complete and informed diagnosis, therefore, preventing further damage to the teeth as well as preventing the need for more extensive dental treatment in the future.
You may be concerned with the exposure of radiation to your child during dental radiography. Dental radiographs use minimal radiation and the x-ray films currently used require a significantly less radiation exposure. Also, the dentist is trained to determine the minimal amount of radiographs necessary for your child. Every patient is different and may require a different number of radiographs. Some factors that will determine this include the patients age, which teeth have emerged, whether they have primary teeth only or a combination of primary and permanent teeth, and whether or not they have a specific condition the dentist may need more information about for treatment.
The dentist will take steps in order to make the experience as pleasant as possible for your child, and to make them feel comfortable with the procedure. He or she will explain the steps to your child in a way they can understand, and show them how it will be done. The dentist may even allow your child to handle a film so that they are aware of what will be placed in their mouth. These types of x-rays are called intra oral radiographs because the film is placed inside the patient’s mouth. These are usually taken as a series of 8 to 10 images. The upper and lower teeth are imaged separately as well as together when they are biting down. Intra oral radiographs are commonly used because they show a lot of detail in a specific area.
First, the dentist will prepare for the radiographs by selecting the appropriate films and preparing the x-ray machine. Then, a lead apron and collar will be placed on your child to protect them from the x-ray beams. Depending on the age of your child and the view necessary, you may be asked to assist by holding his or her head and film in the proper position. If this is the case, you will also have a lead apron and collar placed on you. Depending on the area of the mouth being x-rayed, the film may be placed in a film holder in order to hold it properly in your child’s mouth. The dentist will gently place the film into your child’s mouth and ask them to bite down. The dentist will position your child’s head and x-ray tube properly for the view to be taken, and then they will expose the film. Once all the radiographs are taken, the dentist will remove the lead apron and collar and you will be asked to wait so that the dentist can ensure the radiographs have been exposed properly.
Another type of radiograph that may be used as part of your child’s treatment plan is a panoramic radiograph. In this technique, a larger film is placed outside of the mouth in the x-ray machine. This is called panoramic radiography because it shows all of the teeth in one image. This is useful to see how the teeth are emerging as well as to investigate specific conditions, but it is less commonly used because it does not provide enough detail, and are usually taken in conjunction with intraoral radiographs.
Dental radiology compliments the findings of a complete clinical oral examination, allowing the dentist to make a more complete and informed treatment plan for the patient. When dealing with children, the dentist will explain the steps so that they will understand what will happen and will work quickly to ensure a positive dental experience for your child.
* Special thanks to Dr. Tabitha Chng and Dr. Bobak Mehdi in the production of this video.