Brand new to our office is a state-of-the-art digital x-ray system which provides multiple patient benefits. Although our office has used digital x-rays for over six years, I recently decided to upgrade the system in all our patient rooms. While all digital radiographs in the dental setting emit next to negligible radiation, this new system is so precise that it allows us to reduce the exposure time even more. Radiation from digital x-rays is said to be similar to that emitted from natural sunlight. In addition, the cone beam technology that we use in our office focuses the x-ray directly on the teeth and thereby controls any scatter. In the past, I have had my system tested by radiation examiners and it was found to emit “almost no radiation.” Now, therefore, it would be only marginally inaccurate for us to presume our new system to produce radiation on the order of “less than zero!”
While the reduced exposure time is notably important to my patients, even more important to me as a dentist is the increased diagnostic ability these new x-rays afford me. Though my former system seemed more than acceptable to me in terms of clinical precision, the enhanced clarity of the new x-rays has surprised and delighted me. We are thus able to detect decay at an earlier stage, and thereby treat cavities more conservatively when they are smaller. This in turn leads to less drilling, less time in the dental chair and less money out of pocket for the patient. We are also able to “watch” cavities which we call “incipient” and perhaps decide never to fill them if they do not progress. This phenomenon only pertains to cavities in between teeth, where the decay can sometimes be arrested by regular dental flossing and fluoride rinse application.
Along with the new x-ray sensors has come a software upgrade loaded with doctor and patient benefits. This intriguing new technology allows the dentist to enhance images and magnify areas of concern for the patient to see clearly what the doctor is prescribing and why. It even permits me to outline decay using a colored circle on the image. It is important for me that my patients understand the need for treatment and the ways in which we propose to improve their dental condition. I am excited and proud to offer this new technology in my dental practice and hope that my patients will continue to realize my commitment to quality care in the most conservative manner possible!