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Digital X-Rays Give Dentists the Big Picture

Dental X-rays are used to pinpoint areas of tooth decay or bone loss, and they are an important aid during root canal procedures. For years, an X-ray at the dentist’s office went pretty much the same way: The dentist or an assistant would put a piece of film in a plastic holder in your mouth, tell you not to move, and disappear. You’d hear a quick clicking sound. Then you would wait for someone to return with tiny films that could be displayed on a light box or board.

Those days are fading. Digital technology has spread to the dentist’s office, with a number of advantages. For digital X-rays, an electronic sensor is placed inside the mouth instead of film. Digital processing is a little faster than traditional film X-rays, so there’s less exposure to radiation. But even traditional dental X-rays expose patients to only extremely low levels of radiation, so any risk for potentially harmful effects is minimal.

Getting the Big Picture—Fast

X-ray of a mouth on a computer monitor

There is no need for a darkroom, chemicals, or developing time. Instead of viewing small film images on a light box, large-format digital images are viewed on a computer screen.

These bigger, clearer images make it easy for dentists to show patients their X-ray in order to explain a diagnosis and illustrate the discussion about treatment. Problem areas can be magnified. Brightness and contrast can be adjusted so that even tiny amounts of decay are visible.

Safer Storage and Streamlined Image Sharing

Because only one original exists, film records are at risk for being destroyed or lost. Digital images can be stored at your dentist’s office and copied to a backup storage system off site in case of a fire or flood.

Digital radiographs can be easily copied, printed, or e-mailed to other dental professionals for consultation. Comparing new images with those from previous visits is easier, too.

Just as digital camera technology revolutionized photography for both amateurs and the pros, digital radiography is bringing state-of-the-art imaging systems to dental practices everywhere.

“Digital Radiographs: Imaging Technology for the Dental Office.” Journal of the American Dental Association. November 2006, vol. 137, pp. 1624.www.ada.org/sections/scienceAndResearch/pdfs/patient_68.pdf Accessed 2013.

“New Technology in the Dentist’s Office.”Academy of General Dentistry, March 2007. www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/articleAccessed 2013.

“In Practice: How Going Digital Will Affect the Dental Office.” A.G. Farman et al. Journal of the American Dental Association. 2008, vol. 139, suppl. 3, pp. 14S–19S. http://jada.ada.org/content/139/suppl_3/7S.full.pdf+html Accessed 2013.

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