Digital X-Rays.It is almost impossible to imagine the practice of dentistry without x-ray technology. Radiographs (x-ray pictures) allow dentists to diagnose and treat problems not visible to the naked eye, including tooth decay, gum disease, abscesses and abnormal growths. There is no question that since x-rays first became available a century ago, this diagnostic tool has prevented untold suffering and saved countless teeth. Now, state-of-the-art digital x-rays have made the technology even safer and more beneficial.

Digital x-ray technology uses a small electronic sensor placed in the mouth to capture an image, which can then be brought up instantly on a computer screen. When digital x-rays first became available about 20 years ago, they immediately offered a host of advantages over traditional x-ray films requiring chemical processing. Most importantly, they cut the amount of radiation exposure to the dental patient by as much as 50%. While faster traditional x-ray films that require less exposure have been developed over the years, a digital x-ray still offers the lowest radiation dose possible.

Advantages of Digital X-Rays

Besides minimizing radiation exposure, digital x-rays offer numerous advantages to dentists and patients alike. These include:

  • No chemical processing & no waiting: Because there is no film to process with digital x-rays, there is no waiting for pictures to develop or toxic chemicals to dispose of. Your dentist can immediately show you the images on a computer screen for easy viewing.
  • A clearer picture: It is possible to get more information from digital x-rays because they are sharper and can be enhanced in a number of ways. The contrast can be increased or decreased, and areas of concern can be magnified. It is even possible to compare them on-screen to your previous x-rays, making even the most subtle of changes easier to detect.
  • Easy sharing and storage: They can be e-mailed to different locations, and they are also far less likely to be misplaced.
  • Patient education: Digital x-rays provide a better visual aid to help the patient understand the doctor's diagnosis and proposed treatment options.

X-Rays and Your Safety

While digital technology has minimized x-ray safety, it has not entirely eliminated risk. X-rays are a type of radiation used to penetrate the tissues of the body to create an image. In doing so, there is always a slight possibility of causing changes at the cellular level that might lead to future disease. Of course, there are sources of radiation present in the daily environment (the sun, for example) that can also cause disease. It is important to note that the chance of this happening is thought to be cumulative and not based on a single exposure. Still, x-rays are not considered risk-free regardless of how technology reduces your exposure. That is why dentists will only use them when the benefit of obtaining better diagnostic information outweighs the procedure's  risk. No matter which technology is being used, each case is considered individually and your safety is always paramount.

 Please feel free to ask if you have questions about why an x-ray is being recommended for you.