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Are Dental X-rays Safe for Children?

There’s no denying the importance of dental X-rays. They can detect oral problems that hide between your teeth. And they help dentist snip these issues in the bud before they turn serious. But while they’re invaluable, some might be wary with them. Especially when it comes to radiation exposure. That said, are dental X-rays safe for children?

Indeed, radiation exposure can be a scary thing. While the small doses we take in from the background don’t account for much, constant exposure can lead to heightened cell damage. And while cells can heal themselves from this, over time, the amount of damage accumulated may overtake the cell’s rate of repair, causing damage to the DNA. And when DNA damage occurs, dangerous complications arise, such as cancer.

X-rays, be it for the bones or the teeth, are a source of radiation. This fact may make parents wary when they learn their child needs them, particularly during their dentist’s appointment. But are dental X-rays safe for children?

How much radiation do X-rays emit?

The radiation emitted by X-rays can be harmful on a cellular level. These rays are a type of ionizing radiation. Under this classification, any light emitted by these rays is strong enough to knock out an electron from its pair an atom’s nucleus. In cells, the unpaired electrons—now known as ions—search for another electron to pair with. As it does so, it goes through cell tissue haphazardly, causing damage as it goes through.

 For the most part, cells have repair systems that help then regenerate after this to prevent any mutations in the DNA. However, if too much damage occurs, it can overtake these systems and cause unwanted variation to the DNA code.  

But while X-rays do emit ionizing radiation, researchers have concluded that their levels are too low to give a significant cancer risk. Medical News Today notes that the dosage X-rays provide are comparable to the background radiation we receive on the daily—that is, very little. And since X-rays are done sparingly, an individual may barely experience the effects.

Are dental X-rays safe for children?

All this considered, what does this mean for dental X-rays? Especially those catered to children? While X-rays do emit low doses of radiation as opposed to CT scans, children are still more susceptible to their effects as opposed to adults. However, while this vulnerability exists, there are measures in place to mitigate exposure.

For one, offices with a pediatric practice can usually adjust the radiation to the lowest dosage, as children don’t need too much radiation for the X-rays to get an impression. Recently, several dental clinics have also adopted the use of digital X-rays, which use less radiation than traditional imaging. And to ensure there will be no radiation penetration on the other parts of their bodies, patients are also given an apron to deflect the rest of the rays.

Are dental X-rays, then, safe for children? One would be inclined to say yes. With the proper measures are in place, your kids are in safe hands. But if dental X-rays still unnerve you, it’s always best to ask the dentist beforehand. 

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