Radiation from digital X-rays can be as little as 10 percent of what patients would be exposed to with film-based radiography.
We’re all aware of the statistics regarding the reduction in radiation exposure that is realized when dentists convert from film to digital X-rays. Depending upon the type of film used, radiation exposure can be reduced by as much as 90 percent by switching from film to digital.
The benefit is brought home more forcefully by what radiation reduction means to patients. I’ve experienced several incidents in my practice.
Several months back, a patient came into the office during an emergency. She was experiencing severe pain in an upper molar, and the obvious first step was to take an X-ray. The patient was four months pregnant and rightly leery of unnecessary exposure to radiation.
I carefully explained to her the precautions I take to keep radiation exposure to a minimum. First, I pointed out that we employ a double shield consisting of lead-lined protection for the thyroid and other areas that are at greatest risk for exposure during dental radiography.
I went on to explain that I use DEXIS™ digital radiography and that the radiation dose from digital X-rays can be as little as 10 percent of what she would be exposed to with film-based radiography.
After I was confident that she was comfortable with going ahead, we took the X-ray. It revealed her need for an endodontic procedure. Again she was skeptical, saying, “Won’t that require more X-rays?”
I explained to her that the recommended procedure would require more X-rays, but that the endodontist to whom I was referring her had also installed digital radiography, so her additional radiation exposure would be minimal. In fact, as I told her, I won’t refer a patient to another specialist who doesn’t use powerful, patient-friendly digital radiography.
I’ve also found that parents are increasingly aware of the risks of radiation exposure to their children, particularly since the effects accumulate over a lifetime. It’s important to reassure parents that our practice does everything possible to keep their children safe.
When we took an X-ray of one child’s teeth, the attentive mother said, “The beep is not as long as it used to be.” That’s an astute observation that shows the digital radiography system we have is safer for everyone.
Digital sensors are more responsive than film so that less radiation is required to produce a digital image. This results - as the parent I mentioned observed - in a shorter beep, further reinforcing the improved safety of digital.
The safety benefits of digital radiography are not limited to patients. Dental team professionals benefit from lessened exposure to radiation with digital. In addition, they no longer need to spend time in an enclosed space with toxic chemicals as they develop film X-rays or refresh or dispose of film chemicals. My team members have commented about how much safer our office is since we installed digital radiography.
I recommend installing a digital radiography system in your practice for your patients’ and team’s safety.
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 email@example.com.