Digital radiography and your team

Among the things every dentist needs to consider when deciding whether to convert to a new technology is the effect on the dental team.

Among the things every dentist needs to consider when deciding whether to convert to a new technology is the effect on the dental team. Our office converted from film to digital radiography, so I’d like to share with you some of the issues we dealt with in making that change.

I am not in favor of forcing decisions on my dental team. I won’t make a decision that will affect how my team members do their jobs and announce to them that this is the way things are going to be from this day forward. Team members should be part of the decision-making process; their buy-in is critical to the success of any changes that affect the way they do their jobs.

Converting from older, film-based X-ray technology to digital radiography impacts every team member. Showing my team the positives of converting from film X-rays to the DEXIS®digital radiography system was important to our office’s success in adopting this new technology. Let me share with you how we communicated the benefits of this conversion to my team and how that helped make the transition to digital radiography smooth for us.

First, every team member involved in taking X-rays has a vested interest in the old way of doing things. That is, team members who have been using film-based dental X-ray technology - in some cases for many years - tend to resist changing to a new way of doing their work.

They’re so used to using film packs, taking film-based radiographs, going to the processing room, developing film X-rays, and bringing them back to the operatory for the dentist to review, that it can be difficult for them to envision a process that is much more straightforward, less stressful, less time-consuming, and much more environmentally friendly.

For instance, with digital radiography, instead of changing out film X-ray packs every time they capture a radiographic image, all that’s required of team members is to move the digital sensor. While this might seem like a minor change, it simplifies their job and reduces time spent capturing X-ray images.

Instead of taking those film packs to the film X-ray processing room and dealing with cumbersome development and mounting procedures, the radiographic images they capture will automatically be custom mounted and displayed within seconds on a large-screen computer monitor. They save time and effort.

Also, wondering whether a retake will be necessary while processing film is completely eliminated. Team members know instantly whether an image they’ve captured is good instead of having to wait until film processing is complete. The patient’s “Wow!” upon seeing the image on the computer screen is often a pretty good indicator of their enthusiasm.

With digital radiography there’s no longer the need to recycle the environmentally destructive chemicals that are required for the film X-ray process. Digital radiography, unlike film-based radiography, is completely environmentally friendly. Your dental team - if they are anything like mine - will appreciate the environmental benefits of converting to digital radiography and the space that is freed up because there’s no longer a need for a film processing room.

If you’re like more than 80 percent of U.S. general dentists, you are considering converting from film to digital radiography. Directly addressing issues associated with the change will enable your practice’s conversion to this indispensable new technology to be as smooth and successful as ours.

Dr. Cynthia Brattesani maintains a private practice in San Francisco, Calif. She was awarded the prestigious ADA Golden Apple New Dentist Leadership Award in 1996. She is an enthusiastic member of organized dentistry, having held positions at the local, state, and national levels. You may reach her at

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