When Should My Child First Have Dental X-Rays?

There are many “firsts” in a child’s life, and as a parent, you have to make decisions about many of them.  You can find yourself completely inundated with information when you try to determine when certain milestones should happen in your child’s life.  Because every child is unique, the answer to when certain things should happen varies pretty widely.

In regards to dental care, we have specific recommendations on things like the first dental visit, but not on things like x-rays.  Those decisions require case-by-case evaluation.

When Do Children Need Dental X-Rays?

The answer to when is a tricky one.  The American Association of Pediatric Dentists states that radiographs (x-rays) should only be taken when the diagnosis they provided will affect the care you provide to the child.  For example, if an x-ray is necessary to diagnose a potentially harmful dental infection that would require urgent treatment, then you should proceed with the x-ray.

On the other hand, if an x-ray showing the state of a tooth will not alter the care you provide to the patient, you should not proceed with radiographs.  For example, if a permanent tooth is not erupting (coming into the mouth), and an x-ray would show where it is without affecting any treatment, you should not do x-rays.  Put plainly, we don’t use x-rays to just answer questions.  If the x-ray does not give us information that would alter the necessary treatment for a child, we do not take them.

If the clinical evaluation of the child’s mouth shows signs of dental diseases that require more information for accurate diagnosis, then x-rays are necessary at that stage.

Why Do Children Need Dental X-Rays?

Children need dental x-rays for the same reason adults do: they provide essential information about the health of the teeth and surrounding jawbone.  X-rays are an essential part of the diagnosis process of a dental evaluation.

Dental x-rays help us catch cavities in their earliest stages and put a stop to them with preventive treatments.  Without x-rays, we can only visualize cavities after they have grown large enough to create an actual hole in the tooth.  Cavities of this size always require more aggressive and invasive treatment.  To provide conservative and preventive dentistry, x-rays are a must.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe for Children?


Advances in dental technology have continually reduced radiation doses from dental x-rays.  Our digital x-rays require only a fraction of the radiation that former film x-rays required.

We take the minimum x-rays necessary to provide the best, most conservative dental care for your children, so there is no risk for high levels of radiation exposure.  We treat our own children, so you can ask us how often and how early we take x-rays on them if you still feel concerned.

The amount of radiation from dental x-rays is also just a fraction of the radiation from medical images, like a chest film.

More Questions about Your Child and Dental X-Rays?

Call Timberlake Dental today to schedule a consultation for you or your child with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any questions you have about the x-rays your child should need and the safety of them.


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