Digital radiography (digital X-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental X-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of X-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged, helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems more easily. Digital X-rays reduce radiation 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays.
Dental X-rays are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without X-rays, problem areas can go undetected.
Dentists can also copy or print digital radiographs with ease. This allows for effective comparison of new results to previous images and insight on how treatments have impacted dental conditions. Dr. Rice can transmit your digital x-rays to other professionals if needed via computer – eliminating the need for a second set of x-rays in most cases.
Why Use Digital Radiographs?
One of the most significant advantages of utilizing digital radiographs is reduction of radiation exposure. Digital radiographs also eliminate the use of film and required chemicals for processing, making the overall procedure much less harmful to the environment.
The larger computer screen used to display digital radiographs allows dentists to view any problems or irregularities with added clarity. The potential for early detection of decay or periodontal problems and reducing complicated conditions later is vastly increased.
Here are some of the main conditions that digital radiographs can better expose:
- Small areas of decay
- Bone recession
- Fractures and trauma
- Positioning of the teeth
- Developmental irregularities
- Tooth positioning
Dental X-rays may reveal:
Abscesses or cysts.
Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
Decay between the teeth.
Poor tooth and root positions.
Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
How Are Digital Radiographs Taken?
The technique for capturing digital radiographs is similar to that of the traditional-style radiographs, but the digital variety uses a small electronic sensor to capture intraoral images, as opposed to film bitewings.
Generally, a full mouth series of digital x-rays includes eighteen different views of the teeth and underlying jawbone. The two standard views dentists use are: periapical and bitewing. The periapical view is used to inspect the root tips for decay, disease or damage, while the bitewing view allows for close inspection and measurement of the mandible and maxilla (upper and lower jawbones).
After exposure, the digital image is either transferred wirelessly to a computer, or the dentist takes the plate from the mouth, and scans it with a specialized reader. Processing traditional film can take up to five minutes, but a digital image takes mere seconds. Once the image is apparent on the screen, the contrast, color and brightness can be altered to produce a much clearer image.
Are dental X-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. Digital X-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays. Not only are digital X-rays better for the health and safety of the patient, they are faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental office. Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the X-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.
Even though digital X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation. These precautions include only taking those X-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.
How often should dental X-rays be taken?
The need for dental X-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary X-rays based upon the review of your medical and dental history, a dental exam, signs and symptoms, your age, and risk of disease.
A full mouth series of dental X-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing X-rays (X-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems.