When Do Kids Need Dental X-Rays?

In general, pediatric dentists discourage parents from taking their children for routine dental X-rays. Over a lifetime, the less you are exposed to radiation (including X-rays), the better.

However, there are times when a dental X-ray is necessary to diagnose oral health issues in children. According to the American Dental Association, high-risk preschoolers should have X-rays every 6-12 months. Children in this category have already developed cavities in their baby teeth. Proper brushing and flossing can keep your kids out of the high-risk category. Other preschool-aged children might receive an X-ray every 12-24 months.

Diagnosing Cavities in Children

Your dentist can usually inspect your young child’s mouth for cavities visually. However, as the child gets bigger and develops adult teeth, your dentist may recommend X-rays more often. Bigger teeth mean smaller spaces between the teeth and more hiding spots for cavities. Whatever the child’s age, there should be a reason for the X-ray. Reasons can include pain, impacted teeth, obvious decay, migrating teeth, unexplained bleeding and lack of visibility.

Early detection of cavities, whether with gentle imaging techniques or with X-rays, prevents small problems from growing. If the dentist waits until he or she can see cavities without an X-ray, tooth decay may advance to the point that it needs to be extracted or get a root canal.