Digital x-rays are a pretty awesome part of the whole pediatric dental experience. After all, how often do kids get to see the inside of their bodies? Plus, x-rays are completely pain free (although, kind of like playing The Quiet Game, being perfectly still for the brief x-ray can be the most challenging part). Just like traditional x-rays, digital x-rays provide a “The Magic Schoolbus” sort of view of the inside of a child’s mouth. However, instead of a film in a plastic holder, digital images use an electronic sensor in the mouth to capture the image.
There are a number of reasons pediatric dentists use x-rays: They might be looking for cavities, dental structures, bone loss (although that’s rare in kids) or even malignant or benign masses. Most kids can expect to get a new digital x-ray every year because bodies change, teeth fall out and grow in anew, and you can never tell when a cavity might show up—even in kids with the most flawless of oral hygiene.
How Digital X-rays Work
For children who are a little gun shy (or electronic sensor shy), understanding the essentials of x-rays can be a great help. Basically, a radiographic image is created from a burst of x-ray radiation which can penetrate through the mouth at varying levels—yes, just like Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider, except there’s no pain or superpowers with x-rays. Your dentist will show and explain the images.
Teeth look lighter on a digital x-ray because not as much radiation goes through them. Trouble spots, like infections, look darker since it’s easy for the radiation to penetrate them. If your child has any restorations like fillings, they can look lighter or darker depending on the material used to make them.
Oh, and about the whole radiation thing? Don’t worry—it can sound scary, but a tiny amount is used. Most x-rays only use around .150 mSv for a full mouth series, which is about the same amount a person is exposed to during a cross country flight. Such a small amount might also be why superpowers are rarely gained at the dentist!