When should my child have their first dental x-ray?
Dental x-rays (radiographs) are used by the paedodontist or oral health therapist for diagnostic purposes. They provide detailed information relating to cavities, the eruption of adult (permanent) teeth, dental anomalies and growth. Dental x-rays may be taken inside the mouth (intra-oral) or outside of the mouth (extra-oral).
The need to take dental x-rays varies between children depending on their oral health and current dental problems. Children with good oral health may have their first intra-oral x-rays from four years of age when all the primary (baby) molars have erupted. This allows the clinician to ensure the teeth are healthy and allows them to begin management of any potential developmental issues. Children with good oral health generally have the x-rays taken every two years to monitor the health of the teeth and gums.
The x-rays taken inside the mouth allow the clinician to view the surfaces in-between the teeth, which cannot be seen when looking in the mouth. These areas, particularly the molars, can be prone to dental decay (caries) as food commonly becomes trapped here, later progressing to a cavity. If a cavity has developed intra-oral x-rays can assist the clinician in determining how deep the decay is and how much of the tooth is affected. This information is vital when determining the appropriate course of treatment. Intra-oral x-rays also allow the clinician to look closely at a particular tooth and its roots.
The panoramic x-ray taken outside the mouth is known as an OPG (orthopantomogram). The OPG allows the clinician to view the position and growth of the primary (baby) teeth and permanent (adult) teeth which are growing in the jaw. It also allows the clinician to view all of the surrounding structures. An OPG can be beneficial when determining the appropriate restorative dental treatment and also when a child may require orthodontic treatment.