Forensic oral imaging quality of hand-held dental X-ray devices: comparison of two image receptors and two devices

Forensic Sci Int. 2010 Jan 30;194(1-3):20-7. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.09.024. Epub 2009 Nov 12.


Recently, different portable hand-held and battery-powered dental X-ray units have become available. Especially for forensic odontological purposes, they offer diverse advantages such as for use in disaster areas and crime-scene locations as also in autopsy rooms and mortuaries. For any application, the most important feature of these hand-held devices is the delivered image quality. The aim of this study is to evaluate the radiographic image quality acquired by two portable X-ray devices in combination with two types of image receptors and to compare the findings with the image quality of a standard intra-oral X-ray device. Eleven samples consisting of eight teeth, two dry skeletal specimens and one formalin-fixed mandible part were mounted on blocks for standardised (re)positioning. Radiological images were acquired with two hand-held (AnyRay 60 kVp, 0.02-4.00 mAs and NOMAD 60 kVp, 0.023-2.277 mAs) and one wall-mounted (MinRay 60/70 kVp 0.14-22.4 mAs) X-ray device combined with two image receptor systems (VistaScan phosphor storage plate (PSP) and SIGMA M CMOS Active Pixel technology sensor). The effect of X-ray source-to-object distance (SOD) was checked at 20 cm in conjunction with object to image receptor distances (OIDs) of 0.8 and 2.5 cm. For each parameter setup, the exposure times were run from low till high. An expert consent statement was achieved by agreement of four expert observers selecting the optimal images based on a developed four point quality rating system. Next, a selection of the images was assembled in a set of 198 observation screens and scored by seven observers. The observation screens were designed to compare observer scores, relations between devices, receptors and OIDs and images obtained from the different devices at equal exposure levels (mAs). All results were statistically analysed. Radiological image quality was significantly higher for phosphor plate compared with the CMOS digital receptor system (p<0.0001). Furthermore, a significantly superior image quality was obtained for OID=0.8 than for OID=2.5 (p=0.039). A significant difference in image quality between the three devices was also established (p=0.02). The present study demonstrated the feasibility of portable X-ray systems for forensic odontological applications based on rendering optimal image quality, provided an in vitro guideline of optimal parameter settings and offered a radiological image database usable in further research.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Forensic Dentistry / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Observer Variation
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement
  • Radiography, Dental, Digital / instrumentation*