Improving Patient Health via Digital Radiography
THE NEXT DDS
systems are beneficial to a dental practice in several ways. These systems not
only allow the practice to function more efficiently in regard to productivity
and patient throughput (thus increasing revenue), they also eliminate the cost
of film and allow for easier communication (eg, e-mail) with insurance
companies and other dental professionals. But how do these systems benefit the
It is important
that each patient receives the highest standard of care that dentistry has to
offer.1 This not only applies to the successful outcome of a
treatment, but also to the well-being of the patient during treatment. Digital
radiography systems allow the clinician to capture radiographs through a very
low dose of radiation, whereas conventional x-rays require longer exposure
times, resulting in a higher level of exposure. Why is this important, and how
does radiation affect the patient?
require the use of film, which come in varying speeds. According to a survey by
The Nationwide Evaluation of X-ray Trends (NEXT), in the United States, 70% of
dental practitioners use the slowest film with its higher patient dose.2
The amount of radiation a patient is subjected to when this film is used is
approximately 1.7 mGy per film with an average of close to four films being
used per examination.2 According to a study by Blanc et al, digital
radiography systems, on the other hand, showed markedly reduced exposure values.
The overall analysis of dosimetric values demonstrated a mean dose reduction
averaging 40% to 60% with respect to standard film exposure.3 This
reduction in exposure results in safer patient health.
Radiation on the Body
The energy from the
x-rays can be absorbed by molecules in the body (eg, sugars, proteins, DNA/RNA).
These molecules (ie, combinations of different kinds of atoms that are joined
by chemical bonds) carry out the functions of living tissue.4 The
energy produced from an x-ray can be damaging to these molecules, which can
lead to the production of less functional proteins (eg, DNA). DNA is the most
crucial of the molecules in the body; it is the blueprint for all of the body’s
structures.4 DNA molecules are made up of extremely long chains of
atoms that are wound around proteins and packed into chromosomes (ie,
structures within the cell nucleus). When radiation disrupts an electron,
pushing it out of its orbit around an atomic nucleus, electrical charges form
on atoms or molecules,4 and this can cause harm to the DNA. The
collisions and ionizations that take place in the body due to radiation
exposure happen very quickly (ie, in less than a second), but it takes much
longer for biological effects to become noticeable. One possible long-term
effect of radiation is cancer. This occurs if radiation alters the DNA code of
a cell. This mutation is caused by an error in the “blueprint.”4
Therefore, it is the responsibility of the dentist to make sure that the
patient is receiving optimal care in all aspects of treatment, including
reduced radiation exposure.
Table. Five Benefits of Digital
Radiography to Emphasize for Your Patients
- Digital radiography systems
allow the clinician to capture radiographs through a very low dose of
radiation, thus resulting in safer patient health;
- Patients view their x-rays
instantly on a chairside monitor, which enables the clinician to easily
explain the patient’s current case and treatment options;
- Eliminates the need to process
film as is required by conventional x-rays, and therefore expedites
- Communication with other dental
offices (ie, referrals) and insurance companies can be accomplished via
e-mail, thus making the process more efficient for both patient and
- Digital x-rays can be printed
out and handed to the patient for personal record- keeping, whereas
conventional x-rays require a light box and can be difficult to handle.
systems are a safer alternative to conventional film x-rays in regard to
patient health. They offer a significant reduction in radiation exposure, and
are more convenient for patients as well. Digital radiography systems not only
make the patient’s visit more productive, these systems allow the patient to
rest easy in the chair, knowing they are receiving the best possible care.
D. Improved patient education and practice efficiency via digital radiography—Part
I. Pract Proced Aesthet Dent 2006;18(4):212-214.
Radiography: Doses and Film Speed. Available at:
http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/radhlth/dentalradio.html. Accessed February 16, 2007.
M, Nessi R, Paruccini N, Castellana L. Disimetric evaluations in dental
radiology: Comparison of the digital system and the conventional system. Radiol
Med (Torino) 1995;89(3):319-323.
Does Radiation Affect Humans? Available at: http://hss.energy.gov/HealthSafety/ohre///roadmap/achre/intro_9_5.html.
Accessed February 16, 2007.