Contributors, Dr. Jennifer Wallace|July 28, 2011 1:15 pm

Get the complete picture from your dentist

By Jennifer Wallace

Dental X-rays are necessary to help diagnose problems not visible to the naked eye. They help to locate and expose dental problems such as tooth decay, a tooth abscess, cyst or even a tumor. They also help the dentist to examine the condition of fillings, crowns, dental bridges and root canals. They can also show impacted or extra teeth, and diagnose gum disease and tarter buildup.
Thanks to science, modern techniques allow patients to receive dental treatment without the pain and time associated with old-fashioned dentistry. Dental technology has been developed to make dental X-rays safer and more convenient by using digital X-rays. The actual act of taking a digital radiograph is actually similar to traditional dental X-rays that use film. With digital radiography, your dentist inserts a sensor into your mouth to capture images of your teeth — but that’s where the similarities end. Although it looks similar to the film used for bitewings and other X-rays, the digital sensor is electronic. It is connected to a computer much like your digital camera is connected to your PC when downloading personal photos.
There are several benefits to using digital radiography over traditional film X-rays:
• 90% less radiation: Images can be magnified, contrast adjusted, and measurements can be made by utilizing the computer program.
• Patient Education: Easier for patients to appreciate their dental problems when it can be shown to them on a computer monitor.
• Transferring Images: Images can easily be e-mailed to referring specialists and dental insurance companies for claims. As more offices are turning to electronic patient charts, computers may eliminate the need to mail dental records altogether
• Environmentally Friendly: Digital dental X-rays are better for the environment! Unlike traditional x-ray machines seen in a doctor’s office, these eliminate the need for thousands of gallons of developing fluid, thousands more gallons of water, and the need to store thousands of x-ray film sheets. Because doctors view digital images, there’s a ripple effect of efficiency, both in terms of operation and energy. For example, eliminating 50,000 analog films saves 1,900 gallons of fixer and developer chemicals per year. There’s also no wasted office space for a darkroom and no need to store films which can quickly pile up.
• Higher Quality Images: The standard size of traditional X-rays can make viewing difficult, but digital radiography has done away with the “one size fits all” mentality. Once on the screen, digital X-rays can be enlarged or magnified for a better visual of the tooth’s structure. Brightness, contrast and color can also be adjusted, allowing your dentist to see small cavities easier. If you need a hard copy of your X-ray, digital images can also be printed out.
Digital radiography is slowly gaining steam in the professional dental community. While digital radiography is helping many dentists diagnose your dental problems, additional software programs are making their lives even easier! One such program is called subtraction radiography, wherein dentists compare current images to previous images of the same tooth, helping them find even the smallest changes in your tooth’s structure.
With all the advanced technology in today’s dental visit, nothing can replace the traditional visit to your family dentist, complete with oral examination of the head, neck, TMJ and oral cavity. The visit is definitely enriched with the use of digital dental x-rays to give a more complete picture and help you get on the road to a healthier and more beautiful smile.

Dr. Wallace practices at Palmetto Smiles of Beaufort and can be contacted at 843-524-7645 or at www.palmettosmilesofbeaufort.com.

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