Pediatric Dentistry Radiation Standards

With so many healthcare options, not only in pediatric dentistry but for all pediatric disciplines, it’s often hard to keep up with changing practices. Any caring parent wants to consider the practices that coincide with common medical treatments for children. Before talking to your children’s dentist, let’s provide some baseline information about pediatric dentistry standards for radiation.

Recently the New York Times published an article titled, “Radiation Worries for Children in Dentists’ Chairs” by Walt Bogdanich and Jo Craven McGinty. While the article is well written and timely, the authors make the mistake in assuming most pediatric dentists practice this mode of diagnosis. The fact is, most of us do not.


The type of imagining system referenced in the article is known as Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT). While we pediatric dentists understand the value of CBCT we also understand the risk involved with using this as a standard of care for all patients. We still follow the ALARA principle (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) to reduce radiation exposure to our patients by

*determining the need for and type of radiographs to take,
*using best practices during imaging, including the application of quality control procedures,
*interpreting the images completely and accurately.


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry released this statement regarding CBCT:

“In no case should the exposure of patients to X-rays be considered ‘routine,’ and certainly CBCT examinations should not be conducted without initially obtaining a thorough medical history and clinical examination. In fact, CBCT should be considered an adjunct to two-dimensional imaging in dentistry. Limited field view of CBCT systems can provide images of several teeth from approximately the same radiation dose as two periapical radiographs, and they may provide a dose savings over multiple traditional images in complex cases. CBCT should only be used when the question for which imaging is required cannot be answered adequately by lower dose conventional dental radiography or alternate imaging modalities.”

In other words, in no way is anyone advocating the casual and frequent use of this equipment in dentistry for children. The safety of children is paramount, and the AAPD advocates the utilization of all available means to reduce a radiation dose for every examination, children and adults alike. How often dental X-rays should be taken depends on your child’s oral health condition, age, risk for disease and any signs and symptoms of oral disease your child may be experiencing. Talk with your dentist about what is right for you and your children.

The author practices pediatric dentistry at Behind the Smile: Dentistry for Children in Beaverton and Hillsboro, Oregon near Portland, Oregon. These dentists are board certified.

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