There’s a newer dental x-ray technique that you may have experienced at your dental visit called digital imaging. Instead of using a piece of film and spending 10 minutes developing x-rays in a dark room, the images are now acquired with a small sensor that is placed in the mouth and sent directly to a computer for interpretation and diagnosis. Digital imaging is also used to take pictures outside of the mouth, called a panoramic x-ray. This image is used to examine any area that does not fall within the small surface area of the sensors that are placed in the mouth. Regardless of whether the image is intra-oral (taken in the mouth) or extra-oral (taken outside of the mouth), there are several benefits to this newer technology.
- The digital imaging technology is highly sensitive, meaning it requires significantly less radiation than traditional film to produce a quality image.
- The image is displayed almost immediately, just like we are now accustomed to taking digital images with cameras. Can you remember the days of taking pictures with a film camera, and then taking the film to the store to have it developed? You never knew if the pictures turned out, if someone had their eyes closed, or if you cut someone halfway out of the frame. The same goes for x-rays: better to know immediately if we have the image we’re looking for and re-take if necessary to get the desired result.
- The image can easily be enlarged and displayed on a monitor so the patient can more easily see and understand what the dentist is looking at. Gone are the days when a dentist holds a small square up to a special light as you watch them squint and pronounce you cavity-free. Good imaging equipment and techniques allow you to look at a screen and understand what x-rays are showing the dentist.
- Finally, digital images can be easily shared electronically between dental professionals. Health information privacy laws require that this information is transmitted in a secure, encrypted manner to protect your health records.