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Dental Radiographs (X-Rays) for Children | Kid's Dentist Ontario

What Are Dental Radiographs?

X-rays are like the window to the inside of the teeth, bones, and surrounding tissues of the oral cavity. Without radiographs, the dentist cannot see what issues may be causing pain or discomfort in the underlying tissues and structures. Dentists recommend having a set of x-rays taken once a year for yearly exams on every adult patient. The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests taking at least one full set every three to five years for a complete diagnostic examination, unless there is a concern that needs to be addressed. This concern may be regarding a patient describing pain or related to trauma. Then an individual x-ray will be taken called a periapical.

Dental radiographs have been a major component in the diagnosis of the oral cavity since their discovery. The technique has gone through many changes in the last century and radiation exposure has been minimalized to ensure patient safety as well as the dental assistant. Exposure to dental radiation hasn’t been an issue for quite some time, however, it is still monitored carefully, training and continued upgrading is essential to everyone.

Dental Radiographs (X-Rays) for Children

In Children's Dentistry, there should be four x-rays, called bitewings, taken every year unless there is a concern for recurrent decay. Then, X-rays should be taken every six months. This type of children x-rays shows in between the teeth. They will show if there is decay that cannot be seen from the top of the tooth and how the teeth bite together or occlude. It is a very important tool for the dentist to make a complete diagnosis for the  patient. Oral exam and patient history are also important components in making a complete diagnosis.

It is especially important for the child patient to have a complete set of children x-rays taken. These can then be compared to future radiographs as the child ages. Certain radiographs are needed for different diagnoses. If a patient is new to the clinic then they will have the four bitewings (the x-rays that show the teeth biting together as well as in between the teeth) and a panoramic x-ray called a panorex. The panoramic view and the bitewings are considered a complete set of radiographs.

For children, they are needed to see the growing teeth under the baby teeth. This full set will include seeing the wisdom teeth in development as well. In today’s Ontario children's dentist offices we use state of the art digital radiography and current safety precautions. One question to ask when searching for a new best kids dentist is about their safety practices regarding children x-rays. If transferring to another dental office, you should ask for copies of the x-rays to limit exposure to radiation.

This is only if the x-rays are within the recommended time limits. If it’s passed the recommended time frame, then new x-rays will need to be taken. If the patient has had an emergency then a new x-ray called periapical will need to be taken. This type of x-ray focuses on an individual tooth and it’s surrounding areas.

Why Take X-rays On Children?

Taking x-rays is vital to your childrens oral health. Not just for decay removal and restorative procedures but also for growth patterns and oral diseases that may be present. Keeping an eye on your child’s growth pattern will help with diagnosing orthodontic concerns. Growth patterns of the teeth can show how the teeth will fit in the mouth and if there might be a need for braces. Early diagnosis can prevent severe crowding and or guide in the eruption of the permanent teeth. Thus, shortening the orthodontic experience.

The dentist can view all the tissues of the oral cavity and face with a panoramic x-ray. This is important for finding and detecting any lesions that might be evident on the x-ray. Early detection is extremely important to a cancer patient’s survival. The dentist will be able to refer the patient to an oncologist and work together for the child’s best oral health options. The patient will be able to start treatments and procedures early enough to hopefully stop the spread of cancer if it is present.



Dental radiographs are of utmost importance to making a complete diagnosis with regard to any dental patient or any dental health concern. Especially when it comes to children’s dental health. Baby teeth are important to a child’s speech, digestion, and guiding the permanent teeth into place. Viewing x-rays and an oral exam are the only ways to detect decay and other oral health issues as described above. Focusing on early detection and getting treatment plays a major role in the success of the patient. Good at-home oral hygiene habits can also be discussed and preventive measures such as fluoride treatments and sealants will continue to provide the patient with optimal oral health. For children, seeing a pain-free dentist every six months is recommended.