Oral and maxillofacial surgeons like Dr. Herbst are specialists in diagnosing and treating complex conditions of the face, jaw, and mouth, using the most advanced medical and surgical procedures to treat their patients. They also make use of the most advanced technology to provide the best care for their patients, so when it comes to the latest in X-ray technology, digital X-rays are rapidly replacing traditional radiographs.
Traditional X-rays, or radiographs, make use of film just like traditional cameras. When you have an intraoral X-ray, for example, the film is sealed in a moisture- and light-proof packet, and placed inside the mouth to capture images of specific teeth and the bone around them.
The X-ray machine is aligned precisely with the film and an exposure is taken. The image at this point is latent, and won’t show on the film, because, just like photo film, traditional radiographs need to be chemically processed before they produce a visible image.
Digital technology, on the other hand, uses an electronic sensor instead of film. For an intraoral digital X-ray, a small sensor is positioned in the mouth just like a film. When the X-ray is taken, a digital image capture device produces an image which is formed by a matrix of pixels instead of a photo-like film exposure. This format allows the image to be sent directly to a computer for immediate display without requiring processing.
Even though these methods seem very similar, digital X-rays offer some significant advantages over traditional films. Let’s look at how they compare, more or less.
- More Diagnostic Advantages
A traditional X-ray is a fixed image. It cannot be modified or enhanced. Here the digital X-ray offers a clear advantage in diagnosis.
Just as you can enlarge certain types of images on your computer without blurring or losing detail, a digital X-ray uses computer software to magnify images while keeping their details sharp. They can also be enhanced through brightness and contrast applications to make details stand out even more. Both of these benefits are extremely helpful for diagnosis, especially when looking for small injuries, subtle irregularities, or early stages of disease.
There is even digital subtraction radiography software available that can be used to compare recent images to older ones, removing (“subtracting”) all the similarities in the two images to display only the changes in the two—even small changes—that have taken place over time.
- Less Exposure to Radiation
Even with modern improvements in traditional X-ray technology, digital X-rays expose patients to significantly less radiation. A patient can reduce radiation exposure by 10%, 20%, or more with a digital radiograph. And while all types of dental X-rays expose you to very little radiation, it’s always best to reduce exposure whenever possible.
- More Convenient for Sharing and Transmitting
If you need to share your X-rays with another dentist or physician, digital technology allows you to simply have them e-mailed to another office or multiple offices. You no longer need to worry about preserving physical copies, either.
- Less Waste
Unlike traditional X-rays, digital X-rays don’t need to be processed, so you save time in the office. And while the processing time is not significant (usually several minutes), if you need to repeat some X-rays for a clearer picture, or require different images for several teeth, this time can add up.
Digital X-rays are also more eco-friendly. The fact that they don’t need to be developed means that the chemicals used to process traditional films are no longer necessary—which also means that there is no need to dispose of chemical waste products afterward.
Why Are X-rays Necessary?
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons treat a great variety of medical issues. An X-ray can be an important tool for discovering and/or evaluating a number of dental and jaw concerns, including:
- Bone Loss
- Congenital or developmental abnormalities
- Cysts and tumors
- Fractures or other injuries to tooth or bone
- Implant placement
- Wisdom teeth
Our goal is to provide you with the safest, most efficient, and most effective care possible. Digital X-rays are an important tool for oral and maxillofacial surgeons, enabling us to discover and to treat injuries and potentially severe conditions before they have the chance to become more serious. If you have any questions about digital X-ray technology, contact our Union City, NJ office. We’re happy to explain the science—and the benefits—behind this high-tech diagnostic tool.