A common question we get from parents is: “When is it appropriate to take my child’s first x-rays?”. Well, the short answer is – it depends on the child!
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states, “Because each patient is unique, the need for dental radiographs can be determined only after reviewing the patient’s medical and dental histories, completing a clinical examination, and assessing the patient’s vulnerability to environmental factors that affect oral health”.
The typical “check up” x-rays that we take on adults and children are called “bitewing” radiographs. They look between the teeth for signs of cavities, under previous fillings, and also show the bone levels between teeth. Bitewing x-rays should be taken 6 months to 1 year after we can no longer see spaces between the baby molars. X-rays are necessary when there are no spaces between the teeth, as by the time dentists can visually see a cavity, it is already quite deep. Here is an example of a bitewing radiograph:
Another common x-ray dentists take is a “Panoramic” radiograph. This is typically taken once permanent teeth start erupting (the front teeth and 6 year molars) around age 7-9. This radiograph checks for any missing permanent teeth, extra teeth, and developmental abnormalities. They are also indicated if a child has a severe trauma to check for any bone fractures. Here is an example of a panoramic radiograph:
Periapical x-rays show teeth and their roots. They are taken in cases of trauma, to detect any tooth eruption anomalies, and tooth abscesses. Here is an example of a periapical radiograph:
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Reference: CDA essentials Issue 8 2019 p. 35-37