Digital imaging was introduced into dentistry in 1987. Digital sensors are used instead of x-ray film. Sensors can be wired or wireless depending on the system used. (Figures 77 and 78) Sensors and tube head placement are the same for digital imaging as film and tube head placement is for traditional radiology. Most standard radiographic machines can be converted to acquire digital images. Digital imaging still uses ionizing radiation, and therefore, before any radiographs are exposed, the patient must be protected with a lead apron and thyroid collar. The apron must be properly placed to avoid interference with the radiographic exposure.
The sensors are slightly thicker than a regular film. Modified film holders must be utilized in the placement of the sensors. These modified holders can be purchased from any major dental supply company. The sensors can be reused several times. Proper use of intraoral barrier and OSHA techniques must be observed.
The advantages of digital radiology are decreased exposure time to the patient, elimination of darkroom processing time and exposure to processing chemicals, immediate viewing, and ability to easily and cost effectively transmit directly to third party facilities or affiliating dental offices. Additional computerized advantages include the ability to enhance the image for viewing. Once an image is in the computer, brightness and contrast and image reversal can be enhanced for optimal viewing of tissue and bone levels. The radiograph can be rotated and magnified to enhance details. An additional feature shows embossed images creating a stacked effect of the oral tissues.
The main disadvantages are substantial start up costs including machinery and operatory computer technology, and compatibility with other software program and RAM capacity. Considerations must also be noted that although your office may utilize digital radiography, other facilities may not and the transfer of images between them could be more difficult.
Proper film and tube head placement are a critical component of the total radiographic procedure.
Periapical, bitewing, and occlusal surveys are critical components of diagnosis and treatment of dental patients. Because of the exposure to ionizing radiation, proper techniques must be employed to reduce radiation exposure to the patient through the use of lead aprons, high speed film, and proper technique; thus decreasing additional film retakes. As technology advances in dental radiology operators must maintain current knowledge and adapt their abilities for the best treatment of the patient.