Not Using Digital Radiography in Your Practice?
John C. Comisi, DDS, MAGD
In case you hadn’t noticed, everything and everyone is going digital—television, cameras, phones, tablets, watches, and, of course, radiography. Clinicians who have yet to incorporate digital radiography into their practices are missing out on the many advantages it offers compared to traditional film. While it can be expensive, the conversion to digital will prove to be extraordinarily beneficial and cost-effective in the long term.
The rapid acquisition of a digital radiograph improves time management in the office. There is no need to wait for a film to develop, and the image can be enlarged for better visualization. This is a stark contrast to the use of film, which is fixed in its size and must be held up to the light to view. The digital approach makes sharing information with patients an invaluable experience. Couple this with intraoral photography and your message and diagnosis becomes very clear. Sharing your expertise with your patients helps build trust with them, and using this type of digital technology makes this easier to do. Additionally, a huge benefit to the patient is that the radiation to acquire an image is up to 70% less than is required for conventional x-ray film.1
The use of digital panoramic radiographs has also become an invaluable asset in dental offices. Clinicians can either purchase a digital panoramic machine or convert a film panoramic machine to a digital one. Conversion of existing film panoramic radiograph machines is an easy process. There are several vendors in the dental community that can perform this conversion and enable a practice to incorporate digital panoramic images into its patient diagnostics and office management system.
With a digital radiography system, no chemicals, processors, or dark rooms are needed. Eliminating the challenges of chemical disposal, processing, and dark room maintenance from the practice can significantly reduce costs and stress.
Office management system software has been an important part of the author’s practice for years. Electronically integrating digital radiographic data with the overall patient record can be easily accomplished, and it streamlines treatment planning and re-care follow-ups. Being able to place previous digital images next to current images makes comparing data simple, and the subtle differences that can be seen with enlarging and changing the contrast or coloration of the images improves the effectiveness of identifying new disease.
Sharing digital radiographic images with specialists and laboratories is also very easy in this format. Sending a secure, HIPAA-compliant, encrypted email with the radiograph to specialist colleagues gives them the opportunity to view the image without needing to take additional images, saving the patient from being exposed to additional radiation. It is also cost-effective because your practice is operating more efficiently without having to wait for films to develop and enabling quicker diagnoses.
Keep in mind that younger dentists entering into the profession are being trained to use digital systems and they will expect it to be present in the practices in which they work—or those they plan to purchase someday. Without this instrumentation in the office, you may be putting the practice in a cumbersome position. The value of the practice will increase with investment in new technology, and digital radiograph technology is one type that this author believes will be essential for every office. Perhaps it’s time to make that investment.
1. Digital vs conventional radiography in the dental office. The Canadian Academy of Dental Health & Community Sciences website. https://www.canadianacademyofdentalhygiene.ca/blog/digital-vs-conventional-radiography-dental-office.html. Accessed June 6, 2016.
About the Author
John C. Comisi, DDS, MAGD
Ithaca, New York