Better imaging: the advantages of digital radiography

J Am Dent Assoc. 2008 Jun:139 Suppl:7S-13S. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2008.0357.


Background: Digital radiography has been available in dentistry for more than 25 years, but it has not replaced conventional film-based radiography completely. This could be because of the costs involved in replacing conventional radiographic equipment with a digital imaging system, or because implementing new technology in the dental practice requires a bit of courage. When the practitioner is fully aware of the new possibilities offered by digital radiography, he or she can make a more informed decision about adopting it. This article offers information about digital radiography, not just as a replacement of conventional radiography, but also as a concept offering benefits beyond those of conventional radiography.

Overview: Digital radiographs are composed of a set of numbers arranged as a grid of rows and columns. The dentist can perform mathematical operations on these numbers to create a new image in which certain characteristics are enhanced, thus making interpretation of the image easier. The dentist also can correct, to some extent, overexposed or underexposed images and can optimize contrast and brightness for specific diagnostic procedures, such as caries detection and bone level assessment. More advanced procedures are available as well, such as digital subtraction radiography and computer-aided recognition of image features.

Conclusions and clinical implications: The author presents a selection of the advantages of digital radiography that are not achievable with conventional film-based radiography. Implementing digital radiography in the dental office requires additional training. However, once members of the dental team have gone through this initial phase, they have the benefits of several new diagnostic possibilities. With a digital system, information from radiographic images is collected more easily and in a more objective way, which will improve the performance of the diagnostic process.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Radiography, Dental, Digital*
  • Subtraction Technique