Digital radiographs (x-rays) are an important diagnostic tool for dental professionals. While traditional film radiographs provide critical insight into the oral and physical health of the patient, hi-tech digital radiographs allow dentists to view and enhance dental images on a large computer screen.
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. If the dentist refers the patient to a specialist, digital radiographs can be transmitted via computer – eliminating the need for a second set of x-rays in most cases.
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
Fractures and trauma
Positioning of the teeth
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.
If you have questions or concerns about getting a digital radiograph, please contact your dentist.