Digital Dental X-Rays

By Deane Barker on January 19, 2006

I was at the dentist this morning, and they had to do x-rays, which kind of suck because they stick these huge wads of film into your mouth and make you bite down.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my dentist has gone digital. Now I get to stick a little USB-based device into my mouth with a cable hanging out, plugged back into a desktop machine. It’s much, much smaller and less painful than the standard film (no pointy edges).

Everything else is the same, except my x-rays appeared on a screen in front of me within about 10 seconds after the hygenist came back into the room. Plus, no film to throw away. They just stick a new plastic baggie thing onto this USB device for the next person.

The hygenist told me that the biggest advantage is that they find out right away if they need to retake something. It took 20 minutes before to get the x-rays back, so if there was a problem and they had to retake something, they had to do it right away to make sure they still got you out the door on schedule.

The fact this interests me is scary. What’s scarier is that as soon as she put this thing in my mouth, I was already writing this post in my head.



  1. My dentist rolled out that system (or one just like it) just before my visit six months ago, and the hygenist was a little shaky with the whole procedure. When I went in the other day, the hygenist was an old pro at it. I love it — I especially love the fact that they can use a lower “dose” of radiation for a shorter period of time, meaning no more 50-lb. lead overcoat and, presumably, no more glowing in the dark.

  2. I went to the eye doctor for an exam a while back and they were trying out a system that would take digital photos of the back of your eye; that was pretty cool too. The Dr. pulled up the images on a nice big flat panel in the exam room and reviewed things with me, which was pretty informative. You basically get to see what he would’ve seen if he’d been peeking through the little scope-thingy and shining the light into my eye. (I had thought to write a post on it at the time, but couldn’t find much info on it.)

    It sounds like the digital dental x-rays very practical, and actually save time & money, but with the system the eye doctor used, I couldn’t see a huge benefit to be gained, other than bragging rights.

  3. My wife is an orthodontist and just bought a new digital x-ray machine for her office. It cost about twice as much as a similar film based machine would, but, in addition to the postive environmental aspects of not using film and the asscoiated developing chemicals, it also is supposed to use 70% less radiation than needed for film exposures.

  4. My dentist explains that since it is a digital file, the image can also be manipulated to enhance the critical details they are looking for. And the larger display (instead of the 1 inch square of film) is much easier to view.

    My back doctor is looking forward to when MRI images can just be pulled up on a monitor in his office. Ending the constanct movement and filing of film.

    As for cost, I bet that the added cost of the equipment is recovered in a few years with the lack of film, chemistry and disposal costs.

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