What are Dental Digital X-Rays?

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  • Written By: Adam Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 December 2018
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Many of us have been to the dentist recently enough to remember how uncomfortable it is to get dental x-rays taken. Biting down on a sharp piece of x-ray film, while the dentist triggered the machine from behind a lead shield, used to be an unavoidable part of dental care. However, new technologies have developed which can eliminate this type of discomfort, as well as providing better-quality images. Dental digital x-rays are a product of these technological advances. With these, the x-ray film is replaced with an electronic sensor which emits a small amount of x-rays into the part of the mouth it is pointed at, and relays information back to a computer screen, where both dentist and patient can clearly see how the patient's teeth are doing.

There are numerous advantages of dental digital x-rays, as opposed to traditional dental x-rays. First of all, anything that reduces the discomfort experienced in the dental chair is welcomed, and these newer x-rays do just that. Also, there is no need to wait for the x-ray film to be developed before it can be viewed, meaning the checkup as a whole takes less time. The image brought up on the computer screen is also clearer, in part because the sensor used to make dental digital x-rays is much more sensitive than x-ray film. Because it is more sensitive, the patient's x-ray exposure can also be dramatically reduced.


Many dental patients have said that with dental digital x-rays, it is easier to understand the course of treatment, if any, that the dentist wishes to take. This is because they are able to see the image enlarged on a screen in front of them, rather than trying to interpret a small piece of film held up to a light box. The cost of getting dental digital x-rays taken is usually comparable to that of traditional x-rays, so many dental insurance companies cover their cost.

One of the most significant features of dental digital x-rays is that, with the proper additional software, dentists can use a technique known as subtractive radiography. This means that new x-ray images can be compared with older ones from the same patient. This comparison is performed digitally, by the computer, meaning that it will sometimes catch differences that would escape detection in a visual comparison. The patient is the one who benefits most from this, because potential problems can often be seen and caught earlier by this method than they would have been otherwise.



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