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Dental technology has improved the way dentists practice their craft. Thanks to science, modern techniques allow patients to receive dental treatment without the pain and time associated with old-fashioned dentistry. Dental technology is even being developed to make dental X-rays safer and more convenient.
While dental X-rays emit low amounts of radiation and every precaution is taken to protect patients from exposure, some dental patients may still put off dental X-rays for safety reasons. Dental X-rays bring up other issues for patients, including the wait time for film to be developed and environmental concerns. Dentists are addressing these issues with digital radiography, a high-tech replacement for traditional dental X-rays.
Lights! Digital Camera! Action!
The physical process for digital radiography is actually similar to traditional dental X-rays that use film: With digital radiography, your dentist inserts a sensor into your mouth to capture images of your teeth -- but that's where the similarities between conventional and digital dental X-rays end. Although it resembles the film used for bitewings and other X-rays, the digital sensor is electronic and connected to a computer. Once the X-ray is taken, the image is projected on a screen for your dentist to view.
There are several benefits to using digital radiography over traditional film X-rays:
Less Radiation -- The equipment used in digital radiography exposes dental patients to much less radiation. In fact, digital X-rays use up to 90 percent less radiation than film X-rays. While conventional dental X-rays are relatively safe, digital radiography is an excellent option for those who take X-rays on a regular basis or for those who are concerned about radiation.
Shorter Dental Appointments -- Digital radiography can also shorten your dental appointment! With traditional dental X-rays, you'll have to wait while your dentist develops the film. With digital radiography, the sensor develops the picture almost instantly and projects it onto a computer screen right before your eyes.
Higher Quality Images -- The standard size of traditional X-rays can make viewing difficult, but digital radiography has done away with the "one size fits all" mentality. Once on the screen, digital X-rays can be enlarged or magnified for a better visual of the tooth's structure. Brightness, contrast and color can also be adjusted, allowing your dentist to see small cavities easier. If you need a hard copy of your X-ray, digital images can also be printed out.
Transferring Dental Records -- Digital images can be e-mailed to a dental specialist for immediate review. Digital X-rays are taking away the expense and time needed to copy files and mail them to another dentist, making it easier to transfer dental records or get a second opinion. As more offices are turning to electronic patient charts, computers may eliminate the need to mail dental records altogether.
Environmentally Friendly -- Digital dental X-rays are better for the environment! With digital radiography, no chemicals are used to develop film. There's also no wasted space of a darkroom and no need to store film, which can pile up in a dentist's files.
The Complete Picture
While digital radiography is helping many dentists diagnose your dental problems, additional software programs are making their lives even easier! One such program is called subtraction radiography, wherein dentists compare current images to previous images of the same tooth, helping them find even the smallest changes in your tooth's structure.
Digital radiography is slowly gaining steam in the professional dental community. With the expense of digital radiography equipment, digital X-rays are an investment that the majority of our dental practices have yet to make. Currently, approximately 30 percent of all dental offices are using digital radiography. It's estimated that by 2010 more than half of all dental offices will have this dental technology.
No matter what type of X-rays you choose, dental X-rays are important part of your regular dental visits. Dental X-rays are necessary to help diagnose problems not visible to the naked eye. If you're concerned about radiation, talk to your dentist about your X-ray options.