Our pediatric dental office exclusively uses digital x-rays (digital radiography) for all patient visits. Digital x-rays are commonly used at most offices, but for pediatric practices it has particular advantages.
The x-ray film that has been used in the past uses a much higher dosage of radiation when compared to digital x-rays in dentistry. Digital x-rays use up to 90% less radiation and also produce higher detailed images for the dentist to study. This is very important when we are working with our little ones.
We want to make sure that we take digital x-rays quickly and that we have images that are clear – even if our little patient is a bit wiggly! The extra detail is important to track tooth development, which of course is core to pediatric dentistry.
Other advantages of digital x-rays in dentistry:
Aside from the clear safety benefits, one of the other greatest assets to using digital x-rays is the same advantage digital cameras had over traditional cameras when they first came out: instantaneous review.
Because the images can be immediately reviewed on a computer screen and expanded or highlighted to view particular areas, it makes for much more efficient diagnosis and input. We are able to magnify the digital x-ray to see areas that may be difficult to catch otherwise.
Digital x-rays tend to have a higher dynamic range in the image, meaning that the difference between light and dark areas is more pronounced. This makes spotting small details easier.
This allows us to show our patients what we’re seeing and explain things clearly so they can participate more directly in their oral health.
It also makes storing the x-rays in the patient’s file much easier. The main example of this is any situation where information needs to be sent to another health professional, such as a specialist like a periodontist.
Digital x-rays are captured much faster than x-rays that involve film. Thin phosphoric plate sensors are positioned inside your child’s mouth, which are smaller and easier for a child’s mouth. The small sensor, quick exposure and one-step processing makes digital x-rays safer and quicker for our staff and your child. Instead of using chemicals for development, a digital x-rays is captured instantly so we can immediately see your child’s x-ray. Another advantage when we are working with our young patients.
Specific examples of how digital x-rays help in dentistry:
If your child is three years old or older we will recommend that your child have digital x-rays taken by our staff. Those x-rays will help us to identify critical information such as:
- Cavities or tooth decay
- Traumatized teeth
- Underlying adult teeth
- Missing or extra teeth
- Tumors or growths that may affect your child’s development
- The position and spacing of your child’s teeth for braces
Types of digital x-rays dentists use:
There isn’t just one type of dental x-ray used to help your child. Pediatric dentists can take digital x-rays in different areas in order to examine the mouth for specific things. We’ll outline those below.
Occlusal digital x-rays: These x-rays are performed on a child’s front teeth. This x-ray is super simple to take and help us to see a child’s front baby and adult teeth. It is most useful when a child has fallen on the front teeth. This is also one of the first x-rays that your child will have. It is a great way to ease them into taking x-rays!
Bitewing digital x-rays: This type of x-ray involves the patient biting down on a piece of paper so that we can see any between-the-teeth cavities that might exist. We recommend that your child have these x-rays taken once every year. Some children may need to have these x-rays every six months if they have teeth that are very close together and prone to between-the-teeth cavities. We will let you know if your child would benefit from more frequent bitewing x-rays.
Panoramic digital x-rays: This type of x-ray rotates around the patient’s head, and is commonly used to check for jaw growth, missing teeth, extra teeth, wisdom teeth, check for jaw problems and the first step in assessing if your child may need braces. This picture is taken when your child is between 7 and 9 years old. We only take these pictures every 5 years.
Periapical digital x-rays: This x-ray technique is more of a close up, focusing on 1 or 2 teeth from root to crown. This type of x-ray allows for a very detailed look at those teeth in particular. We take these teeth as needed if your child has a problem or pain with a particular tooth.
More resources related to digital x-rays:
Digital Radiographs: Imaging Technology for the Dental Office (PDF)
In Practice: How Going Digital Will Affect the Dental Office