Digital radiography is galloping forward in replacing the traditional dental x-ray systems in dental offices today. Digital radiography in dental offices was introduced in France more than fifteen years ago. The first systems were cumbersome, expensive, and not very reliable. They did not integrate with existing dental software and had to be stored separately on a computer.
There are other digital equipment tools making their way into dental offices. Some of them are digital microscopes, digital cameras, intra-oral cameras, digital translumination, digital periodontal probes, lasers, and caries detectors. Intra-oral cameras were the most popular digital apparatus in the dental office. However, digital radiographic equipment is the fastest growing segment in the dental office today.
Digital radiography is portable, user friendly, and affordable. Last month I discussed the cost of traditional radiography verses digital systems. The most expensive systems replacing existing equipment can be leased and maintained for approximately the same cost as the supplies and maintenance of traditional radiographic equipment in your office now. The systems that allow you to use your existing equipment, such as Dexis® with DEXpan®, will be less expensive over time. This includes leasing, maintenance, and adding or replacing the occasional sensor.
What are some of the advantages that make having digital radiography so exciting in your office?
- There are no more chemicals to use.
- X-ray film and mounts are not needed.
- You can eliminate the darkroom.
- It takes much less time to receive a diagnostic image.
- Images are easier to share with colleagues and insurance companies.
- There is much less patient radiation exposure.
- With the ability to magnify, enhance, colorize, and contrast the image, evaluation, treatment planning, and co-diagnosis with the patient is facilitated.
- Intra-oral sensors are usually more comfortable than traditional x-ray film.
- Less patient chair time is needed to wait for diagnostic quality radiographs to view.
- Systems are fully integrated with the dental software utilized in the dental office. You should look for the system that is compatible with almost every major software system.
- The ability to communicate and educate your patients is facilitated.
The last advantage is the most important benefit of having a digital radiography system in your office. This ability to communicate and educate your patients cannot be underestimated. The magnified and enhanced views available allow the doctor and staff to share information with the patient that was not easily seen by the patient on the small traditional x-rays.
Like almost every other system in the dental office it takes time to maximize the effectiveness of any new equipment. For instance, there are still dental offices that only use their dental software for production and accounts receivable. They still use a paper appointment book, do not use electronic claim submission, or track their patients continuing care. In order to get the most out of your digital x-ray system, understand all the features of this equipment. Make sure you have purchased a system that is fully supported with staff training and technical support.
The patients can understand the benefits to themselves only if you inform them about what digital radiographs have to offer. At the first visit the patient is introduced to digital radiographs, take the opportunity to explain about the benefits of digital radiography. Show them the enhanced features that help in evaluating their mouth. Point out normal and problem areas. Explain how the problems can be corrected. It is amazing how the patient responds to this simple method of communicating their needs. You will see a greater treatment acceptance and a greater appreciation of your diagnostic skills.