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Digital Radiography in Dentistry
Digital Radiography in Dentistry

In the late 19th century, X-rays were invented, and since then, film has been the main medium for capturing, displaying, and storing radiographic images. Digital radiography has become a major tool in the medicine field. However, the breakthrough in dentistry happened in the early 1980s. For over three decades now, digital radiography has been playing a key role in dentistry. Just like in the medicine field, digital imaging in dentistry integrates computer technology in catching, demonstrating, augmenting, and storing direct radiographic images. In the prior years of applying digital imaging in dentistry, the approach lacked key developments. For instance, the systems in place were deficient in mechanisms to capture panoramic and cephalometric images, which were necessary for any dental surgeries. Further developments led to the invention of digital technology. The paper will discuss aspects of digital radiography in dentistry.

History of Digital Radiography in Dentistry

The year 1987 can be referred to as the dawn of the digital era in dentistry, since at that time the first digital radiography system was introduced. A French company known as Trophy Radiologie launched the first digital radiography system which was called Radio Visio Graphy (Hell?n-Halme, Nilsson, & Petersson, 2014). The system was efficient through the application of fiber optics to narrow down a large x-ray image onto a smaller size, which is sensible by a Charge Coupled Device image sensor chip. Further enhancement of the idea generated the ability of the Charge Coupled Device image sensor technology, which was necessary to make RVG digital radiography system a reality. Since the introduction of digital radiography in dentistry two decades ago, modern digital radiographic systems have become pre-eminent, thus bringing several benefits (Wenzel, 2014). A digital image comprises of a set of cells structured in a matrix of rows and columns. Unlike the analogue images, each cell is three numbers, the x-coordinate, the y-coordinate, and the gray value. The differentiating aspects between analog and digital radiographs can be explained that in the digital system, the numbers labelling each pixel are stockpiled in an image file in the computer. In essence, there are two more advanced technologies which generate digital images without an analog precursor (Berkhout et al, 2014). These are direct and semi-direct digital images. The latter are acquired through a phosphor plate system, while the former are obtained through a solid-state sensor. Essential elements include x-ray machines capable of producing small increments of radiation, a computer and monitor with appropriate hardware, software and printing capabilities, an analog to digital converter, and a digital sensor (Pontual et al, 2014).

Advantages of Digital Radiography

Digital radiography is presently accessible to most practices with the up-to-date technology such as scanners and digital cameras. Several advantages aligned with the technology have influenced its popularity in the dentistry field. Digital radiography allows manipulation of digital images on the computer screen. The aspects help in diagnosis through changing density, contrast, and magnification. Digital radiography is a very attractive alternative to film-based imaging in dentistry (Berkhout et al, 2014).

The main advantage of digital radiography is that many responsibilities linked with film use are streamlined or disregarded altogether. For instance, the introduction of digital radiography led to the elimination of chemical processing, which poses significant environmental benefits (Hell?n-Halme, Nilsson, & Petersson, 2014). Essentially, the approach ensures that dentists do not undergo any processing challenges such as darkroom, processor and processing chemistry. Digital radiography has helped in elimination of certain unnecessary duties for staff members. For example, quality assurance checks on a processor no longer have to be completed. Similarly, the presence of digital radiography has helped in saving time for the staff used for processor cleaning and maintenance. Since the images are in electronic form, the duty of labelling and mounting films is eliminated. In its place, images can be viewed by the personnel with the help of a few mouse clicks (Berkhout et al, 2014).

Digital radiography has led to image enhancement and analysis. In this regard, there is increased diagnostic validity of x-rays of non-optimal density. In addition, the technology ensures less exposure to errors as there is enhanced density and contrast (Wenzel, 2014). The process also allows for quantitative evaluation. Most importantly, there is better patient communication, and the system is highly time-efficient. Data storage is another key advantage of digital radiography. Since the storage of images is in the computer database, it is easily accessed. The system also allows for immediate observation of radiographic images unlike in the analogue system. One of the most valuable advantages of digital radiography is that it provides dentists with an ability to send images to their colleagues in a matter of minutes (Berkhout et al, 2014).

Disadvantages of Digital Radiography

Compared to its analogue counterpart, digital radiography is costly. The acquisition of the necessary equipment such as CPU, monitor, processor/sensor, printer, CCD and CMOS sensors requires high capital (Pontual et al, 2014). In relation to the equipment, there are no standardized brands of hardware and software on the market. In this case, there is a loophole for obtaining substandard equipment, which may not be efficient. The end product of the process requires printing, which tampers with the resolution of the image (Hell?n-Halme, Nilsson, & Petersson, 2014). Dentists also raise concerns regarding the inflexible cassette for CCD and CMOS sensor, which do not allow proper placement in all intraoral locations.

Digital radiography is a powerful tool in dentistry. From the above discussion, the system is a reliable and versatile technology, which expands diagnostic and image-sharing possibilities of radiography in dentistry. Although the technology has notable limitations, the identified advantages override. Digital radiography allows easy collection of information in a more objective approach, which enhances the diagnostic process.

 About the author:
Helga Marselos, the blogger and a writer at 
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