Recently, we ran across an article about dentists switching from conventional x-rays to digital as if it were some brand new thing. But quality, digital, dental x-ray systems have been around for a while. We’ve been digital-only in our office for about six years now, and are very happy we made the switch – and for many reasons, which Dr. Verigin elaborates on below.
by Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN
A visual exam of your teeth gives us a great sense of your oral health. We can see the state of your gums, tooth surfaces, tooth alignment and occlusion. But we can’t get a really good look at the interproximal areas (between your teeth), and we have no view at all of your bone and deeper periodontal health, let alone conditions within your teeth. To see these things, we need x-rays. With them, we can get a more comprehensive understanding of your dental health situation and thus be in a better position to treat any problems as early in the dental disease process as possible.
In short, x-ray imaging is one of our most important tools, and since 2004, it’s become an even more useful tool in our office thanks to digital imaging technology.
Think back to the last time you had conventional x-rays. No doubt, you remember the discomfort of sharp edges against your gums and cheeks as you bit down on the film. Once the films were taken, you had to wait for them to be developed. If any didn’t turn out just right, you had to bite on those sharp film packets all over again.
The process is much easier with digital x-rays.
Digital x-rays don’t require film. Instead, we capture the images via a small sensor placed directly in your mouth. Most people find this technique more comfortable, even when we must take the images at difficult angles. And once each x-ray is taken, you see the results right along with us in real time on a nearby computer.
But ease of use is not the main reason we have chosen to be among the still relatively few dental practices that rely on digital imaging. Most important are the health benefits, superior imaging and user-friendly results.
Although digital x-rays, like conventional, use radiation to capture the images, they require much less of it. Reported results have suggested that the amount of exposure is almost halved. Tests continue to be run to determine the exact amount, but even if the exposure is reduced by less than we currently think, it’s still less. And the less radiation, the better!
Additionally, because we don’t need film to take digital images, we no longer need to keep developing chemicals in the office, thereby eliminating a potential source of toxic exposure to both you and our staff. There are no fumes that can escape and permeate carpets, upholstery, clothing and such. At the same time, the elimination of these products cuts costs dramatically. Not only do we no longer have to buy them; we don’t need to hire anyone to safely remove these hazardous materials once used, as there are no materials to be removed.
Digital images are typically of higher quality than conventional. They can also be improved through image manipulation. By enlarging, brightening and otherwise clarifying images, we – and you – can get a better view of the condition of your teeth, gums and bone. Consequently, we can often catch problems in their earlier stages – see where bone loss is beginning to occur or the start of interproximal caries (cavities between teeth).
Even better, you, as a client, can more easily view the images. You can see what we see and so better understand your dental situation and our recommendations for care. If you need to be referred to a specialist, it’s also easier for us to get your x-rays to him or her; we can just e-mail them.
The DEXIS digital x-ray system we use also allows us to view the images in ways that are awkward or time-consuming with conventional films. For instance, we can do side-by-side comparisons of images taken at different times to better chart changes in your dental health. We can switch images from year to year without having to go through your whole chart to find the films we want. Being able to view and compare images more efficiently, we can further broaden our understanding of your dental health and better work with you to maintain or improve it, supporting you in your quest for dental health fitness.