Why do we take x-rays?

Dental X-Rays

Has your paediatric dentist ever recommended x-rays for your child and you’re not sure why?

Sometimes it can be overwhelming and hard to absorb all of the information given to you at a dental appointment. This article will help you understand some of the most important reasons for why we take x-rays.

Reasons for taking dental x-rays

Detecting Decay:

The single most important reason is that early decay often starts between teeth where it is not possible for us to detect with the naked eye. 

Detecting decay early leads to far better outcomes for your child. These could include:

  • Preventing the decay from growing and moving closer to the nerve.

Some very early decay is reversible. We might start some intensive preventive measures such a different or stronger toothpaste, daily flossing, concentrated fluoride application and more regular dental visits.

  • Smaller fillings

Smaller fillings mean less tooth removed and a longer-lasting filling. In our hands and with the materials we use, this means that in most cases until the tooth falls out naturally with no further intervention for your child.

  • Catching the decay before it reaches the nerve

By the time you can see a hole with the naked eye, it often means that a simple white filling isn’t going to work. Decay that is identified late may mean a nerve treatment and paediatric stainless steel or ceramic crown.  Sadly, we often see teeth that will require extraction. Detecting decay early means a less stressful and shorter appointment time for your child to fix that particular tooth.

The x-ray below shows an example of decay found between the molars that was not visible by looking at the teeth.

The orange circle shows a tooth that will need a simple white filling. We see this many times a day! Remember – 1 in 3 children under the age of 6 will have a decayed tooth.

The red circle shows a tooth that has a larger area of decay heading towards the nerve. This tooth may need more complex treatment in the way of a paediatric crown.


Detecting Infections:

Dental infections can start under teeth between the roots. As this area is not visible in the mouth, dental radiographs can be used to help detect them. This is useful for children with possible infected teeth from decay, or from teeth that have been in accidents.

Dental Trauma:

1 in 3 children will have an accident that involves the primary teeth.

X-rays are useful for checking the nerve and ligament health, along with detecting fractures. The blue arrow in the X-ray below shows a fractured root of a permanent tooth.


Dental Development:

Some important things dentists look for:

  • Where the permanent teeth are sitting in the jaw bone and how far away they are from erupting into the mouth.
  • Extra or missing teeth
  • Impacted teeth
  • Lumps, bumps, cysts and other pathology

A dentist should never recommend x-rays without being able to give you a specific reason why. We also have guidelines for how often x-rays should be taken depending on what we’re looking. If you’re ever unsure, please ask! We’re always happy to answer any questions.