Taking the guesswork out of diagnosis

There are literally dozens of reasons that I can give you for converting your practice from film to digital radiography.

Steve Lynch, DMD

There are literally dozens of reasons that I can give you for converting your practice from film to digital radiography. Among other factors, these include better patient acceptance of treatment when using digital versus film images in making your recommendations for care, a tremendous improvement in return-on-investment (ROI), and improved efficiency and dental team satisfaction.

However, the single, most important reason I can give you for converting from film to digital is this: your diagnostic capabilities will improve dramatically by making this change. And, unless you're the exception to the rule, proper diagnosis is at the top of your list of priorities. Providing your patients with the appropriate treatment, based on a proper diagnosis, should be uppermost in your mind.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Shortly after we installed our digital radiography system — but before we had taken out the darkroom — we did a small experiment. A patient came in complaining of occasional pain in the lower left quadrant, so we began, as we normally do, by taking an X-ray. In this particular case, we took two X-rays: one using our new digital radiography system, and a second using film.

When we first viewed the digital X-ray image on the computer screen, we could see a vertical line which ran from the bottom of an amalgam restoration to the pulp chamber. After we enhanced it using the DEXIS ClearVu™ software, a fracture was clearly evident.

While we were examining the image on the computer screen, one of my team members was developing the film X-ray we had also taken. When we looked at the film image on the light box, there was no evidence of the fracture to be seen.

We literally would not have been able to diagnose the problem had we not been using digital radiography. I would have had to resort to guesswork.

That's why I talk about taking the "guesswork" out of diagnosis with digital radiography. Let me expand on this a bit. The first — and most striking — characteristic of digital radiography is the sheer size of the image. When you display an X-ray full-screen on a 17-inch monitor, you're struck by just how well you can see every detail. This is especially true when compared to a 2-inch by 2-inch piece of film, where you literally need to strain your eyes to see any level of detail whatsoever. It's no wonder your diagnostic capabilities are so severely limited with film.

But beyond the greatly enhanced size of digital X-ray images, there also are the software-based tools available to speed diagnosis and make it more accurate. The speed comes in when you consider that within a second of taking the X-ray, the image appears on the computer screen. My patients, team, and I don't have to wait while film is being developed. Diagnosis can begin immediately.

The accuracy comes in when you consider some of the other features available with digital radiography. The array of features means that I can heighten the contrast and brightness of an image to bring out aspects of the X-ray that simply wouldn't be visible on film. I can also use magnification to isolate and examine more closely certain areas of the image in a way that's just not possible with film.

All of this translates into better, more accurate, and more thorough diagnosis. That translates into better patient care. I can tell you that my patients know they are receiving a better service. Using digital radiography, I can involve them in the diagnosis process in a way that is not possible with film.

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.Contact Dr. Lynch by email at steve@lynchdmd.com or visit his Web site at www.lynchdmd.com for more information.

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