Digital X-rays: High Tech, High Value
Digital radiography replaced standard X-rays at Dr. Silbergs office in 1997 and began giving patients a close-up view of their teeth.
To the side of the chair in his treatment rooms is a monitor and keyboard. The patient can view his dental X-rays on the monitor seconds after they are taken.
Dr. Silberg doesn't consider himself a technology expert, but said he appreciates the advantages his digital X-ray equipment offers.
One of the benefits to using digital X-ray technology is that you get instant images. You don't have to develop the images. The sensor is extremely sensitive to X-Rays and therefore we use a lot less X-Ray exposure to produce an image. The manufacturer says that we reduce the radiation approximately 80% to 90% for the patient. We also don't have to worry about any of the processing, the film or the processing liquids that you normally have to dispose of. The liquids are an environmental hazard and, at present, can be legally dumped down the drain. And, very importantly, you never misfile or lose an x-ray in someone elses chart! They are stored on a hard drive and can be retrieved and printed on paper instantly or e-mailed to another dentist or insurance company. They can be easily stored forever. Dr. Silberg has mirror hard drives in the server and backs up the system daily to a 10 tape rotation to insure that the images will never be lost. A monthly back up tape is stored off site.
The Quality of Digital X-rays Compares Favorably with X-ray Film
If you have a perfect X-ray image in film and a perfect digital X-ray, Dr. Silberg feels the digital version is superior as far as image quality. Traditional film is better at detecting cavities so Dr. Silberg does not take the bite-wing films. He feels that it is best for the restorative dentist to take those types of views with film. It is particularly useful to have digital capability when performing implant surgery because you can check your progress often with very little radiation. This provides a great safety factor for the patient to avoid vital structures. When you need to wait 5 to 8 minutes to develop a traditional film and when each film has more radiation exposure than a digital image, you naturally take less x-rays during a procedure.
Another plus is the elimination of processing errors with digital X-Rays, he said. When doing a large amount of film processing for many patients in a day, film quality can become poor because you have to change out the solutions, etc. There just isn't time in a busy day to do this. With digital, there is more consistency.
Zoom Zoom Zoom
The digital system also can zoom in on problem areas. There are imaging tools built into the software that improve the analysis of the images. This is not possible with traditional film x-rays. You get more information with less radiation. The process helps educate patients.
We can very easily show [patients] problems that they may be having with their teeth. It's easy to show these using a digital X-ray, whereas with film it's harder for the patients to see anything. Being able to blow up the images, show them in color or reverse the black and white fields so the patient can understand the problem is a tremendous advantage.
Dr. Silberg uses the CDR digital X-ray system manufactured by Schick Technologies and distributed through Patterson Dental Supply.
The unit has a sensor that is placed inside the patient's mouth to capture the light emitted from a phosphor plate when exposed to X-rays.
The system includes software designed to display and manage the images. Dr. Silbergs dental practice uses EagleSoft, which combines the traditional practice management software with digital X-ray display capabilities.
The system is FDA approved and includes a safeguard that encodes the images to prevent manipulation of image files.
Cost is a significant factor. The sensor units alone can cost $10,000. Then a dentist must factor in the cost for the software and the additional computers. The total system can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars for a solo practice.