Dentistry has seen significant advancements in many aspects of the practice. As a result, the need for precise diagnostic equipment, especially in imaging methods, is mandatory. From simple traditional x-rays, advanced digital radiography technology has found its place in contemporary dentistry. It has made the dental process faster. Additionally, image manipulation, retrieval, and storage are easier. For many years, Encino Dentist has used digital imaging to access complicated craniofacial structures for examinations and accurate and early diagnosis of oral health conditions.

What is Digital Imaging?

Digital imaging plays a significant role in the dental hygiene process of care, documentation, planning, diagnosis, and assessment. Although film-based imaging is still used in dentistry, digital imaging is gaining widespread acceptance and has numerous benefits. It was estimated that by 2016, the number of dentists using digital dental imaging systems was two times the number in 2009. Thanks to the awareness of the benefits of digital imaging and digital radiography.

Digital radiography is an advanced form of x-ray inspection that instantly produces digital radiographic images on a PC. The technique uses x-rays sensitive plates to collect data during object examination that is transferred to a computer without using an intermediate cassette. The x-ray radiation is converted to an equivalent electric charge and later into a digital image through a detector sensor.

How Digital Imaging Works

Production of dental digital images needs Analog to Digital Conversion process. It is a radiograph technique that uses phosphor plate sensors or wireless or wired hard sensors as receptors. Digital images are pixels organized in columns and rows. The ADC process involves two steps, namely:

  • Quantization
  • Sampling

Sampling is a tiny range of voltage values grouped as one value. After sampling, each sampled signal is given a value. For your dentist to view the images, their computer should organize pixels in their right position and show shades of gray matching with the number assigned. The step is called quantization.

X-ray machines are still used in dentistry digital imaging. However, images are converted to digital. When photons from the x-ray machine strike a sensor, analog photos are converted to digital images and transferred to digital imaging software. The images comprise pixels or columns and rows. The pixel technology allows easy diagnosis of anatomies like lamina dura, DEJ, and trabeculation.

Currently, there are two primary forms of digital imaging: direct and indirect. Your dentist can use either method to capture digital radiographs.

Direct Digital Radiography

It bypasses the scanning stage and is loaded directly to the computer. An intraoral radiograph is taken on sensors covered with a sterile wrapping. The sensor is approximately the same size as imaging plates or a periapical film card. However, the sensor is attached to a thin wire that plugs into a part of the computer. Typically, direct digital radiography is used by root canal experts (endodontists) who work on a single tooth at one time and should take instant measurements.

Indirect Digital Radiography

To capture a periapical exposure, your dentist puts a tiny photosensitive imaging plate into a sterilized wrapper and inserts it into your mouth. The x-ray is taken, and the exposed plate is loaded into a processor or scanner that reads your image and converts it to a digital image.

Uses and Categories of Dental Radiographs

A digital dental radiograph could be taken either outside (extraoral) or inside (intraoral) of your mouth. An intraoral x-ray gives complete details, and monitors developing teeth' status, detects teeth cavities, and monitors bone and teeth health. On the other hand, an extraoral x-ray isn't used to check teeth issues. Nevertheless, it is used to:

  • Identify affected teeth
  • Identify issues between jaws, teeth, temporomandibular joints, and facial bones
  • Monitor jaw development and growth

The various forms of intraoral x-rays are:

  • Bitewing x-ray: It is taken when you are biting on the film, showing your lower and upper teeth details in one region of your mouth. The bitewing shows your tooth from the crown to its supporting bone. The x-ray is used to identify cavities, bone density changes caused by periodontal disease, and determine your fit of restorations, dental crowns, and fillings' integrity.
  • Periapical X-ray shows your entire tooth from its crown to your supporting bone. The X-ray is used to identify the root structure and neighboring bone structure problems. The x-ray detects bone loss of all teeth and is instrumental in treating oral conditions like endodontic lesions and periodontitis

Discussed below are the different categories on extraoral x-rays:

  • Cone beam computerized tomography shows the interior structure of your body as a 3-dimensional image. While it is commonly used in imaging centers and hospitals, dentists are increasingly using digital imaging to identify facial bone challenges like fractures and tumors. They are also used to analyze your bone for dental implant and tooth extraction to prevent potential complications after and during the procedures. Unlike a panoramic radiograph, it doesn't slice images. Instead, it scans both lower and upper mouth areas simultaneously.
  • Sialography: It uses a dye that is injected into your salivary glands. It helps in seeing the salivary glands in the film. Typically, the radiograph is used to detect salivary gland challenges, including autoimmune diseases that affect tear or saliva production (Sjogren's syndrome) and blockages.
  • Panorex (panoramic) x-ray requires a machine that rotates around your head. It shows the whole mouth (all teeth in your lower and upper arch) in a single image. The x-ray is used to plan dental implants treatment, identify jaw and affected wisdom teeth challenge, and diagnose cysts and bony tumors. Additionally, the films can be used for legal and forensic purposes to recognize distorted bodies following crashes, fires, among other fatalities.
  • Cephalometric projections show the whole head and assist in examining teeth regarding your profile and jaw. Dentists use these projections when developing treatment plans for aligning and straightening teeth.
  • Multi-slice computed tomography shows a specific layer of your mouth while blurring other layers. It's used to examine structures that are hard to see clearly.

Different Dental Practice Areas Affected by Digital Dental Radiography

Digital radiography plays a significant role in the following areas of dental practice:

It Enhances Sensitization

Dental digital imaging will save the hygienist about five to ten minutes of developing time from a traditional film. Consequently, this creates time for your hygienist to offer more treatment and advise you on oral hygiene.

Periodontics Diagnosis

The ability to enlarge and convert images makes it easy for your dentist to discuss gum disease and bone loss with you. Additionally, it is easy to understand bone loss progression. It is because you can see a series of images on one screen.

Bridge and Crown

Your dentist can check your fit of crowns, posts, bridges, abutments, and implant impressions with dental imaging.

What are the Advantages of Dentistry Digital Imaging?

Unlike conventional x-rays, digital dental imaging offers the following benefits:

  • The digital radiograph reveals tiny hidden sites of decay below or between filling or restorations, gum disease, cysts, abscesses, bone infections, tumors, and developmental abnormalities that can't be identified with visual dental examinations.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment of dental health conditions save discomfort, money, and time.
  • A radiograph could be viewed immediately on a computer screen, operated to improve detail and contrast, and conveyed electronically to the dentist without compromising the quality.
  • The technology permits data storage on a tiny space-saving drive.
  • The radiographs could be transferred to other specialists with compatible computers or images printed for dental experts with no compatible technology.
  • It is eco-friendly because it eliminates the disposal of hazardous lead foil and wastes and chemical processing.
  • Photostimulable phosphor plates (PSP) and digital sensors are sensitive to x-rays and need 50-80% less radiation than film. The technology complies with the As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) less radiation than film, which improves your safety.
  • The images could be stored in your electronic records and then sent with ease to insurance providers, referring consultants, and dentists at the same time lowering or eliminating disruption and resulting in dental insurance compensation.
  • Digital imaging comes with features such as 3D, sharpness, zoom, flip, colorizing, and contrasting help in interpretation, manipulation, and detection, which aid in your treatment and diagnosis.
  • Dental imaging offers comfort. You do not have to sit for hours as your image is taken. Additionally, there is no need to take several images. It also means your children will have an easier time getting dental digital imaging done.
  • You will notice a higher level of care when your dentist uses dental imaging. It reduces radiation exposure by seventy-five percent. Since the process is fast, the risk of exposure is more insignificant.

How Often Should You Undergo Digital Imaging?

Any experienced dentist will tell you that this is a frequently asked question. You should generally get a set of bitewings and full mouth once a year and three years, respectively. However, if you're experiencing pain, concerns, and other dental challenges between dental digital imaging, you might need additional x-rays taken to diagnose what is happening. Discussed in the section below are factors that determine how often you require x-rays taken:

Prior Decay and Existing Restorations

If you've several fillings or any other dental restoration, you require x-rays taken more regularly. It is essential to check your restoration status and the neighboring teeth because you're at an increased risk of having teeth decay.

The Patient’s Age

 People of specific age groups are more vulnerable to complications and decay and require digital imaging taken often. For instance, wisdom teeth start developing at age seventeen and should be examined to check if they lead to challenges and require to be removed. Additionally, children are more susceptible to cavities and require x-rays taken more frequently.

Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy could negatively affect your teeth and the neighboring bone and must be monitored. Be sure to tell your dentist the kind of cancer treatment you went through so that they can plan your treatment safely and accordingly.

Your Location

If you grew in an area where fluoride was not a part of the drinking source, you should undergo digital imaging. It assists in keeping an eye on tooth decay.

Your Medication

While some medications can result in dry mouth, others can lead to oral health complications like weaker bones. If you are taking medication that affects your dental health, you might require x-rays taken regularly.

Prior Procedures and Treatments

If you had severe dental restorations or surgeries, you need to know what is happening to your oral health. The x-ray detects cavities, complications such as bone degeneration, which could stem from prior extraction and changes or irregularities originating from dental implants.

Your Overall Oral Health

Some people are at an increased risk of suffering from gum disease or cavities. These persons need digital imaging taken frequently to catch signs and symptoms of gum disease and cavities as early as possible.

Safety Considerations

Although radiation exposure is low when it comes to digital radiographs, you should not get more radiation than is required. Protective thyroid collars and lead aprons must be used, particularly for children, women in childbearing age, and expectant mothers.

Although it's safe for expectant mothers to undergo a maximum of four (4) radiographs in one dental visit, most doctors and patients choose to delay the procedure until the baby is born. If you are pregnant, you should not worry about undergoing digital imaging. Precautions like using double lead aprons reduce radiographic exposure to significantly immeasurable levels.

Find an Experienced Dentist Near Me

Digital imaging is one of the advanced technologies used by competent dental experts at Encino Dentist. The technology makes the process of taking digital x-rays faster, more convenient, and comfortable. It uses digital sensors to capture images of the teeth hence reduces the risk of radiation. That means digital imaging is safe for you. Your dentist can also see high-quality images on the computer and give you efficient care, diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan. Our dentists can detect various conditions such as cancerous cells, periodontal disease, bone loss, and tooth decay. We invite you to contact us at 818-650-0429 to learn more about how we can assist you, how digital imaging works, and its benefits.