When taking charge of your child’s oral health, you’ll need to consider a wide range of diagnostics to help diagnose potential issues as early as possible. X-rays are a powerful tool for seeing deeper than the surface and exploring the health of the teeth and jaw bones. Many parents are rightfully wary of the radiation risk that comes with traditional X-ray methods. However, some are unaware that digital X-rays have largely replaced the older methods in today’s dental office. If you’re not sure what’s so different about these imaging tools, you’ll want to know before your child’s next visit. Make sure you’re aware of the benefits of choosing a pediatric dentist that offers these digital tools and how they can protect your child when they’re in the chair.
X-rays became commonly used in dental work during the 1950s because of their ability to reveal signs of disease that weren’t visible on the surface of the teeth or gums. The first type of X-ray imaging, now known as traditional X-ray technology, relied on small but intense periods of exposure to radiation to form the image. This kept them from being adopted earlier while other medical disciplines already relied on the technology. Today’s digital X-rays use a different type of sensor than the traditional photography method used for old-fashioned imaging. That allows them to offer a number of benefits to both the dentist and the patients who need diagnostics.
Across the entire medical field, X-rays are widely used to diagnose any disease that affects primarily the bones or other hardened tissue of the body. They’re sometimes valuable for determining inflammation or infection in soft tissues as well. For dentists, X-rays reveal impacted tooth roots, damage to the jaw bone, and infection lingering inside the gum tissue. A dentist for kids will only use X-rays when necessary and may need to order a set of background images once every few years to have a clear comparison of the healthy bite pattern and jaw shape. The dentist will make it clear if the X-rays they’re ordering are standard updates or for a specific diagnostic purpose.
If today’s imaging worked the same as it did back in 1895, your child would have to hold still and deal with exposures lasting as long as 25 minutes per image. Today’s digital X-rays not only take mere seconds to develop but they’re also based on a different technology than old-fashioned dental diagnostic tools. Digital X-rays rely on more advanced sensors that can create a panoramic view of the entire mouth. These sensors pick up very low levels of radiation, which makes many parents more comfortable with the idea of letting their children go through a few rounds of images. Because they’re not so focused on close-ups of certain parts of the mouth, traditional X-rays are still needed to diagnose some conditions or determine what’s going on in the jaw tissue.
1. Immediate Development
While today’s traditional X-rays still only take a few seconds to minutes for the initial exposure, there is a development time since they’re a type of old-fashioned film. Digital X-rays are developed as soon as they’re taken because they’re digital files from the start. If your child’s dentist needs a quick answer to what’s going on inside the jaw, a digital image is the better choice in most cases.
2. Reduced Exposure to Radiation
All dental X-rays expose your child to a minimal amount of radiation that is very unlikely to cause any health effects. Still, digital X-rays use only a fraction of the radiation that traditional X-rays need to develop an image. If you're still wondering "Are X-rays dangerous?" you'll be relieved to know that your child can undergo the digital form of imaging for the majority of their dental care needs.
3. Ease of Storage and Sharing
The digital files produced by the latest type of dental X-ray technology are easily shared between dental professionals. You can store your child’s files on your home computer for quick access if there’s ever an issue. Since most children will see an orthodontist and possibly a dental surgeon for wisdom tooth removal as they get older, having accurate digital X-ray files can reduce the need for more imaging and further radiation exposure.
4. Accurate and Highly Detailed
Speaking of accuracy, digital X-rays are considered to produce crisper and sharper images than traditional imaging methods. These images are often detailed enough to reference even years later because they don’t degrade over time like film. Any pediatric dentist near me can use those same files later to compare how your child's teeth are developing.
5. Panoramic Shots
The digital imaging method is best suited to producing panoramic images of the mouth. It’s challenging to create this kind of full set of images with traditional methods, requiring multiple shots and manual assembly of the pieces. The digital equipment takes a full shot of the mouth all at once in seconds, reducing the amount of time your child needs to stay still in the chair. This makes it easier to get them excited about visiting a pediatric dentist in Washington DC.
6. More Secure
Digital X-ray images are more secure than they might seem despite the ease of transferring them. These files can be encrypted or locked with a password through various digital methods, while physical film X-rays are easily lost or stolen.
7. Reduced Environmental Impact
Printing physical X-rays creates waste and requires a number of chemicals that need special handling. Digital files are quickly produced with only electricity to power the process and nothing is wasted if the images don’t turn out at first.
In some cases, dental health concerns still call for the use of traditional X-rays to back up what’s noticed on a digital image. Bite pattern issues in particular are often verified with a set of occlusal X-rays produced in the traditional way. However, new technology is constantly emerging to make digital X-rays more versatile. Ask your child’s dentist in each case which type of imaging is best to reap the benefits of the digital method as often as possible.
Your dentist may offer to email you the digital X-ray files for each child, but this isn’t always the most secure method for handling health files. A secure app built for health data is a good choice and will likely connect seamlessly with your dentist’s system. If you have a growing family, look for an app that allows for multiple profiles so each child can have their data stored separately. This allows you to easily transfer the medical records to their own accounts when they become adults for a valuable source of health history.
Your child’s dentist will choose the best kind of X-ray for each situation, whether that’s a traditional form of imaging or a more cutting-edge digital X-ray. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved in the dental care process. We’re always happy to explain our procedures to caring parents here at SuperKids Dentistry and answer questions like "Are X-rays safe?"
We are excited to announce the GRAND OPENING of our fifth Superkids office in Mt Vernon, VA. Accepting new patients starting January 16th, 2023!