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Digital Radiography in Endodontic Therapy

A clear advantage in patient education

Certainly, the introduction of digital radiography has been one of the great advances in dentistry in recent years.  This technology is especially beneficial for endodontics, since this discipline depends on radiographs of the highest quality for accurate diagnosis, treatment, and evaluation of treatment outcomes.  Digital radiographs continue to increase in importance from the perspective of patient safety too, and recent coverage in the mainstream media has prompted the American Dental Association and other leaders in organized dentistry to advocate guidelines for the proper use of dental x-rays.1,2

Today, an important part of our professional responsibility is to educate patients about treatment options.  We would not consider performing endodontic treatment without discussing alternative options.  Since society emphasizes the visual image, the synergy between words and pictures enables us to information and educate our patients more effectively than ever before.  In this manner too, digital radiographs play a valuable role.


Effective Communication

Just as the intraoral camera has become an essential communication tool, the digital radiograph also provides this advantage over conventional radiography.3  Presenting an image that has been magnified over 30 times, as compared with a conventional radiographic film, greatly augments the clinician’s ability to communicate effectively with his or her patients (Figures 1 -2).  The creation of serial images, the simultaneous examination with magnification, and a follow-up to monitor the progressive healing of a lesion enable clinicians to demonstrate a clearly successful endodontic treatment to patients (Figures 3 - 4 -5 -6) .

Unfortunately, there will be situations such as file separation when treatment outcomes are not what had been predicted.  Again, a detailed explanation that is accompanied by potential solutions is significantly enhanced by the digital radiographic image.

 

Presenting Options and Practice Marketing

Endodontic treatment may not always be the optimal option for every indication.  It may not be ideal, for example, for a broken-down molar with little coronal tooth structure, the premolar requiring re-treatment, a new post and core, the subgingival fracture of an anterior tooth.  At times, an implant or a bridge may be more appropriate.  Since many patients may not be familiar with implants, digital radiographic documentation of prior implant cases offers an ideal resource with which to present this option.

Patients often equate “state-of-the-art” with quality; therefore, incorporating the latest diagnostic technology into one’s practice may place a dental professional ahead of his or her competitors.  In similar fashion, patients are frequently impressed by the ability to instantly view digital radiographs on monitors placed chairside.  Additionally, presenting comparable cases in the consultative phase will undoubtedly comfort patients and reinforce their confidence in the clinician’s skills.

 

Conclusion

Digital radiography is undoubtedly the trend in dentistry today, and it is poised to be the mainstay of the future. Its multidisciplinary benefits, particularly for the field of endodontics, enhance patient education and contribute to a better understanding of the treatments necessary to preserve oral health.

*Specialist, Endodontics, London, UK.

References

1. http://www.ada.org/news/6979.aspx

2. http://www.ada.org/6972.aspx

3. Lavelle CL. The role of direct intraoral sensors in the provision of endodontic services. Endod Dent Traumatol 1999;15(1):1-5.

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