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Dental X-rays go digital

Dental radiographs (X-rays) can provide essential information about oral health and are an important part of a patient's dental record. Some dental offices now use computers to help capture, store and transmit dental radiographs.

Dental radiographs produced with a special computer create digital images (computerized dental radiographs) that can be displayed and enhanced on the computer monitor.

Digital imaging involves the use of a radiography machine like that used to create dental radiographs made with film. But instead of using film in a plastic holder, the clinician makes digital images using a small electronic sensor that is placed in the mouth to capture the image.

With digital radiographic images, technical errors often can be corrected to provide an optimal radiograph without having to make another exposure. The clinician can use magnification to enhance specific problem areas of a tooth, as well as alter brightness and contrast in the image. Viewing an enhanced dental radiograph on a computer screen can help a dentist better see a problem area.

The dental office also can print or copy digital radiographs. Because the images are stored on the computer, they can be compared easily with future dental radiographs to see if and how conditions have changed.

Digital radiographs eliminate the need for film and film processing chemicals that generate waste. Special light boxes to view the traditional radiographic films also are no longer needed.

Many diseases of the oral cavity (which includes the teeth, surrounding tissues and bone) cannot be seen when the dentist examines a patient's mouth. A radiographic examination may help the dentist see small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings, bone destruction from a tooth infection, bone loss due to periodontal disease and other problems.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

10/13/2008

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