Improve diagnostic capability

July 1, 2004
Until the advent of digital radiology, dentists relied on small, film-based X-ray images for their diagnoses. They worked with single images, despite routinely trying to detect multiple pathological conditions.

Steve Lynch, DMD

Until the advent of digital radiology, dentists relied on small, film-based X-ray images for their diagnoses. They worked with single images, despite routinely trying to detect multiple pathological conditions.

Recent advances in digital radiography software allow dentists to capture multiple images, each of which can be used to better diagnose specific problems, thanks to software that emphasizes different aspects of single images.

I want to expand on this — it's why I installed DEXIS digital radiography in my office five years ago. Let me mention a few conditions we look for when we examine an X-ray image: We look for caries, particularly if we're general dentists. We also want to alert patients to things such as bone loss and other changes in bone structure, including bony lesions. We look for periapical and other tissue changes, including changes in enamel, dentin, and pulp.

Ideally, we need X-ray images that highlight different aspects for each of these pathologies. With film, we're absolutely limited to a single image that presents a single view of the tooth or teeth X-rayed. With digital radiography, however, we have multiple views of the image, views that can be tailored to highlight every important diagnostic aspect of the tooth or area in question.

A digital image contains an extraordinary amount of detail. Images generated by digital radiography equipment are so high-resolution that even when a captured image is displayed full-screen on the high-definition computer monitor in one of the operatories, some of the image's detail is not available for viewing.

That's where software comes in. Software quality, or what it enables you to do diagnostically, is one of the most important things you need to investigate when you're shopping for digital radiography. The software that powers the DEXIS digital radiography system enables dentists to highlight aspects of images they want to examine more closely.

This is done through a number of software features, including ClearVU, the use of color, inverting, magnification, and spotlighting. The software features multiple "smart buttons" that activate functions with a single mouse-click to display pre-set enhancements of each image. These enhancements, which highlight aspects of the X-ray images, greatly improve diagnostic capabilities.

Comparing images is another way software facilitates the diagnostic process. With a few mouse clicks, I can display past X-ray images side by side with images I've just taken in order to monitor bone loss or other changes in tissue. I can use the software to simultaneously highlight, magnify, or emphasize certain aspects of both images, enabling me to focus on areas I need to see most clearly.

At a time when we want to provide the highest quality care to our patients, we should not overlook the benefits that powerful and well-designed computer software can provide.

Steve P. Lynch, DMD, is in private practice in Oxford, Ala. Since 1995, he has been teaching dentists, team members, dental students and faculty the applications of lasers and digital radiography. You may reach Dr. Lynch by email at [email protected], or visit his Web site at for more information.

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