X-rays in Dentistry

X-rays have been used in dentistry since the beginning of the 1900s.  Soon after the discovery of X-rays in 1895, dentists were quick to realize that early detection and treatment of dental problems could help prevent major situations later.  Over the last century, as is the case with most technologies, X-ray technology has changed and improved.
Digital X-rays have been utilized by dentistry for quite a while. Some dentists still like the old fashion way where the film goes through a solution to be developed. There are pros and cons for each choice.

Most patients appreciate the fact that digital x-ray exposure is only 20% or so as compared to conventional x-rays. Even though the conventional ones are within the guidelines of what can be used, there is a legitimate concern about getting too much.

Another advantage is that the x-rays can be easily duplicated. The images are stored in a computer and can be emailed as an attachment to other dentists or insurance companies. With the traditional x-rays you need to have a special machine to take an x-ray of the x-ray that needs to be duplicated, then run that film through a developer. And after that you have to mail it. With today’s preference for quick to instant communication, the old way just doesn’t cut it.

There are some technical advantages. You don’t have to wait for them to be developed, and the x-ray can be retrieved almost instantly. If the film does not provide the needed information it’s easy to reposition the x-ray holder and try again. Also you can vary the settings in the computer to make them lighter or darker as needed. This is most helpful for diagnosis of cavities.

The biggest down side is the cost of all of the equipment. If one of your staff breaks a sensor it could cost $10000 for a new one. That’s a scary thought. The computer software is also expensive. As a trade-off, you don’t have to pay for developing solutions or film which is a cost saver. And you don’t need a dark room to develop these x-rays.

With the strength of x-rays now allowed, it is sometimes difficult to spot the decay between the teeth. When this is the case the decay has in fact gotten bigger before a diagnosis is made, and the subsequent fillings will go deeper than we would like.

Another disadvantage is that the sensor can be a bit bulky and uncomfortable for use in a small mouth.

This is just a brief overview for laymen. I have had digital x-rays for over 5 years and love them.