Digital X-ray versus Traditional?
X-rays have been taken and developed in the same traditional method for decades; a fairly recent advancement has been the introduction of digital X-rays which are now becoming mainstream amongst private dental practices.
Digital X-rays swap the standard film for a sensor which connects via a cable or wirelessly to a computer. The procedure for taking X-rays remains largely the same though different X-ray holders must be used to accommodate the sensor in various positions. The same intra-oral and extra oral X-ray views apply to digital X-rays.
Digital X-rays have a number of advantages over the traditional method:
- The images are available instantly, saving time for both you and the dentist.
- They result in a lower dose of ionizing radiation.
- The image can be manipulated and enhanced (e.g. in contrast or size) to aid diagnosis.
- Storage alongside medical records is made easy.
- They can be emailed to a new dentist if you relocate, or to the specialist if you have been referred somewhere else.
- The costs associated with dental X-rays;processing, managing and storing films are reduced (but the initial expense is high).
- The cost of digital X-ray machines used to mean that they were reserved for only the most expensive practices, but now they are becoming more affordable, the technology is much more widespread.
A slightly different technology, half-way between the traditional method and full digital imaging has been developed that allows X-rays to be taken normally, using a film then scanned into the computer for viewing, storage and manipulation.
What about New Technology?
- Subtraction technology– some of the latest machines permit small changes to be measured by subtracting the initial image from the most recent one. This can be useful in monitoring bone levels in gum disease, the progression of dental caries, integration of dental implants and re-appearance of calculus.
- New Panoramic machines– can now take smaller, more accurate sections and some can diagnose inter-proximal caries to the same degree as bitewing radiographs and changes around the apex of a tooth similar to peri-apical X-rays.
The dentist cannot force you to have X-rays taken, simply recommend them, and it’s your decision whether you decide to go ahead. Just bear in mind that refusal may mean treatment cannot be completed, things are missed and a less than optimal level of care may be provided.
Other modern imaging techniquesthat may sometimes be used in dentistry include:
(i) Computed tomography