Digital X-rays

All about digital x-rays! 

Many of our patients have questions about digital x-rays and why x-rays are necessary, so we want to provide you with all the information that you need to make informed decisions. And always remember, we are here for you. Don't hesitate to ask any of our staff about concerns that you may have.

What is a dental x-ray?

Traditionally, to produce an x-ray, the assistant or hygienist will place a film in the patient's mouth and use an x-ray unit to expose that film to a specific measured amount of radiation. This produces an image on the film that is revealed when the film is run through a series of chemicals in a dark-room. This process takes 5-10 minutes.

With digital x-rays, instead of a film, a sensor is placed in the patient's mouth. The sensor is connected to a computer so that when it is exposed by the x-ray unit, the image is instantly produced onto the computer's screen.

Exposure to Radiation

The sensor does not need the same amount of radiation that film does, so exposure to radiation for the patient is reduced. To give you an idea of what this means:

According to the American Nuclear Society, this is how much radiation you expect from common activities:

620 mrem/year = the average level of radiation per person in the US

50000 mrem/year = the safe allowable dose for people that are exposed to radiation in their work

1 mrem = two hours in a jet plane

700 mrem = abdominal x-ray

0.5 mrem = one dental x-ray

A digital x-ray will give off as little as 0.1 mrem!

Decreased Waiting Time

In addition, there is no more waiting time for processing films! This means more quality time with our patients.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

During a standard exam, the dentist is able to examine only visible surfaces of the teeth and soft tissue. X-rays allow the dentist to see small cavities that are developing in-between the teeth. Once these areas have become visible in the mouth, typically the tooth may already be decayed to the point where it needs a crown, root canal, or may even need to be extracted.

Routine films allow us to diagnose small cavities and repair them before they become bigger, painful and more expensive problems. Also, the doctor cannot see bone-loss without an x-ray which is painless until moderate to severe stages.

Additionally, x-rays allow the dentist to examine the mandible and maxilla for any unusual growths or abnormalities. While cancer and tumors of the jaw are rare, the prognosis is always better the earlier you treat these areas. 

While digital x-rays do emit a very small amount of radiation, it is clear that the benefits greatly outweigh any minimal risks. We are very excited about the new technology that makes dentistry safer and more efficient for us and our patients.

If you have any questions about the content of this page, please call our friendly staff at 480-895-2111.

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