Q. When do children usually have their first dental X-rays?
A. The first set of images is typically taken between 4 and 5 years of age, and includes four X-rays -- two bitewing shots of the sides of the mouth, and two shots of the front teeth, says Dr. Tanny Josen, a pediatric dentist with Great Neck Dental Associates of Great Neck and Mid-Island Dental Associates of Hicksville.
The photos are taken to ensure the child doesn't have cavities in the baby teeth and to detect abnormalities in the mouth that can't be seen with the naked eye. Those can include extra or missing teeth. X-rays allow dentists to see the adult teeth coming in.
After the initial X-rays, children should have just the two bitewing X-rays repeated annually, Josen says.
Parents should be sure children always wear a lead apron and a lead thyroid collar, which may or may not be attached to the apron, while their X-rays are being taken, Josen says. This protects the child's organs from any scatter radiation, Josen says. Parents also should ask whether their dentist's office offers digital X-rays, which use less radiation than traditional X-rays, he says.
While X-rays aren't taken until age 4 or 5, children should have been seeing the dentist for years already, Josen says. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends visits begin by age 1, and Josen says that certainly by age 3 a child should have been seen by a dental professional.