Film or digital X-ray – classic or modern?

Modern dental treatment is impossible without X-ray studies. When the diagnostics of maxillofacial diseases is needed, X-ray investigation methods play a leading role due to their reliability and informational value. Dental radiography is considered to be a virtually safe procedure, and it is allowed to take up to 500 periapical radiographs per year.

Dental radiography types

There are various types of radiography widely used in dentistry such as

  • intraoral and extraoral radiography;
  • orthopantomography;
  • tomography;
  • contrast radiography, computer radiovisiography and some other diagnostic techniques.

To obtain radiographs, one of the two main machine types is utilized – film and digital X-ray machines.

Dental film X-ray

Film X-rays are cheaper. However, they will cost much more than digital radiographs when processed. This is because in the case of film radiography it is necessary to have a full-scale photographic laboratory, and besides, additional financial expenditure will be needed to purchase film and film developers.

Dental X-ray

Occlusal radiography allows you to get an image of any dental arch which will include from one to three teeth. In this particular case, the film is held by biting it with the teeth. However, the resulting teeth and surrounding tissue contours obtained using this technique will not be as sharp as with conventional intraoral contact images. This technique is put into practice while examining patients with limited mouth opening capabilities and with a very high sensitivity or gag reflex to detect neoplasms in submandibular and sublingual salivary glands and teeth. The image inspection is carried out using a special device called a negatoscope.

Up until recently, dentists utilized exclusively film radiography. However, this kind of image is often distorted making it difficult for a dentist to make a diagnosis.

Dental digital X-ray

Digital radiography is far more convenient to operate in comparison with its dated alternative. While operating it, there is no need for any film unless the patient asks for a printed image. This kind of device is convenient for both dentist and patient.

Dental digital x-ray

A digital X-ray system consists of an electronic sensor or a X-ray detector, an analog-to-digital signal converter, a computer and a display or a printer to show images. Digital radiography was first translated into reality when Dr. Francis Mouyen created the RadioVisioGraphy (RGV) system in the late 1980s. This system was then transformed into RVGui (Trex Trophy, Danbury ST). Here are examples of other available systems: Dexis Digital X-Ray (Provision Dental Systems, Palo Alto, CA) and Computed Dental Radiography (CDR) (Schick Technologies, Long Island City, NY).

The advantages of digital X-ray machines are as follows:

  1. Digital radiography takes less time to obtain an image. Thus, due to reduced exposure time, the amount of radiation per person is 90-95% lower since sensor sensitivity in digital machines is higher than in film radiography alternatives. Moreover, making a single radiography shot allows obtaining up to 15 images. At the same time, the X-ray load of taking a modern digital panoramic image is equivalent to 10 workdays on a conventional computer.
  2. The entire diagnostic process will take no more than a minute. Furthermore, you will not have to insert a piece of X-ray film into your mouth.
  3. Digital radiography is considered to be the safest technique for women during pregnancy and lactation.
  4. The X-ray image is sharp and crisp due to high resolution.
  5. No poor-quality film processing means you do not have to undergo the procedure again, as the radiographs are saved on the computer.
  6. Based on a digital radiograph, the dentist can measure the root canal length using an apex locator;
  7. If necessary, the dentist has the opportunity to enlarge parts of the image, which allows examining surrounding tissues and tooth density and structure more accurately. This is extremely important for an accurate diagnosis, defining treatment tactics and curative services prognosis.
  8. A dentist can instantly send an X-ray radiograph to another specialist even if he is beyond the specific medical institution.
  9. An image, made with a digital X-ray machine, is conveniently stored as a computer file.

Dental X-ray

Thus, any digital radiography device produces a much lower radiation load compared to a film radiography machine and that is the main advantage for the patient’s health.

As of today, digital radiography is much more popular among dentists due to its numerous advantages over film radiography. Prices for digital X-ray machines range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Stanislav Tsaryk, doctor, BiMedis company