Parents often question the need for dental X-rays (radiographs or films). Just as a broken bone or lung disease require a radiograph for a diagnosis, dental decay or other pathology (disease) of the oral cavity may require a radiograph for diagnosis. Tooth decay in children spreads rapidly in primary (baby) teeth.
These films, usually two, identify the presence of decay between the back (posterior) teeth. Decay between the teeth is called interproximal decay. By four and one-half years of age, the baby (primary) molars usually touch or contact each other. Interproximal decay can spread to the adjacent tooth if the teeth are in contact. If there are spaces between the primary molars, and there is no other evidence of decay, these films may not be necessary until later. A lack of spacing between the primary teeth predisposes a child to a much higher incidence of interproximal decay. Early detection permits your dentist to restore (repair) the tooth in less time and preserve tooth structure.
This film is used to examine the area around the tip of the root(s) or in between the roots. Primary teeth have long roots before they are resorbed (dissolved) by the pressure of the erupting permanent tooth. A root fracture after trauma, deep decay, infection, the need for root canal treatment, the presence of extra teeth, or absence of developing teeth are some of the findings with this film.
This film evaluates the presence or absence of the upper and lower front teeth (incisors). It may also be used to diagnose fractures of teeth or bone and extra or missing teeth.
Some pediatric dentists request this film around seven or eight years of age, when all eight permanent incisors have erupted. Although this not as accurate in diagnosing decay, it may provide an alternative if a child has a gag reflex that has prohibited taking a periapical or bitewing radiograph. The film is outside the mouth in a machine that revolves around the head. A view of the entire upper and lower jaw is obtained. This is commonly obtained by orthodontists prior to treatment. The panoramic radiograph may reveal or evaluate:
This film ordinarily is obtained by an orthodontist in order to make a diagnosis of a child's bite (occlusion) and to determine the best treatment plan. It measures the relationship of the bones of the head and jaws.
Now, you are "in the know" for your child's next dental X-rays!
by Jane A. Soxman, DDS