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Does My Child Really Need X-rays Taken at the Dentist?

Dental X-rays ChildrenSan Diego, CA – X-rays are a valuable and important tool for dentists, ensuring they can spot problems in their patient’s mouths before they become a big problem. But how often should they be done, and when should they begin? Dr. Santiago Surillo, who is both a pediatric dentist and an orthodontist, offers his thoughts.

“We recommend children have their first appointment with us by the age of one,” says Dr. Surillo. “At this appointment, we’ll do a minimally invasive check-up to help the child feel comfortable. X-rays are generally not taken in our office at the first visit, unless we feel there is cause for concern. In fact, we generally don’t begin diagnostic X-rays until around the age of three.”

Even after the age of three, X-rays may not be required at every check-up. Many dentists only recommend X-rays after performing a physical exam and finding an issue that raises a concern. After a thorough clinical exam that includes the patient’s history, diet, hygiene habits, and fluoride use, the dentist can determine if there is cause to believe there may be hidden dental issues that can’t be seen without an X-ray.

“There is very little risk in dental X-rays, but we always want to ensure your child is as safe as possible,” says Dr. Surillo. “Our entire office is centered around their safety and comfort, and we are extremely careful to limit your child’s exposure to radiation. We follow the ALARA principle, which means AS Low As Reasonably Achievable, meaning we only use X-rays to help us make a diagnosis.”

Here are the recommendations from the American Dental Association:

Young children, ages 1-5 with no permanent teeth:

  • First visit – personalized exam, which may include bitewing X-rays of the back teeth and select individual X-rays of the front teeth.
  • Recall visit for patient with active decay or history of decay – bitewing X-rays every 6-12 months
  • Recall visit for patient with no active decay or history of decay – Bitewing X-rays every 12-24 months

Children ages 6-12 with some or all permanent teeth:

  • First visit – personalized exam that includes bitewing X-rays of back teeth, select individual X-rays of front teeth, and/or a panoramic X-ray
  • Recall visit for patient with active decay or history of decay – bitewing X-rays every 6-18 months
  • Recall visit for patient with no active decay or history of decay – bite wing X-rays every 12-36 months

Adolescent, with permanent teeth but no wisdom teeth:

  • First visit – personalized exam that includes bitewing X-rays of back teeth, select individual X-rays of front teeth, and/or a panoramic X-ray or full mouth X-rays if there is evidence of oral disease
  • Recall visit for patient with active decay or history of decay – bitewing X-rays every 6-18 months
  • Recall visit for patient with no active decay or history of decay – bite wing X-rays every 12-36 months

If you have questions or concerns about your pediatric dental office’s use of X-rays, don’t hesitate to ask. Dr. Surillo and his staff always want patient families to feel free to discuss treatment and diagnostic services and share concerns when they have them.

“Your child’s health and safety is our utmost concern,” says Dr. Surillo. “And we always take your concerns seriously and will happily discuss our dental care plan with you in detail. X-rays are one of the many tools we use to ensure your child’s smile stays strong and healthy.”

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