Since its invention in the mid 1980s, digital imaging has slowly taken over conventional film methods across the healthcare industry. Dental practices worldwide are now using digital x-ray methods to diagnose patients, detect cavities, and monitor teeth and bone health.
Intra-oral dental assistants will be expected to have a good understanding of dental digital imaging and how it differs from traditional film.
Read on for a quick introduction to dental digital imaging.
How Dental Digital Imaging Works
Dental digital imaging uses receptors to generate a digital image through one of three methods: the direct method, the indirect method, or the semi-indirect method.
To produce an intra-oral digital image through the direct method, a patient may be required to bite down on an electronic sensor. The resulting x-ray image would then be transferred to digital software for viewing and editing.
In contrast, the indirect method uses an x-ray film scanner to view traditional x-rays as digital images and the semi-indirect digital technique uses both a sensor and a scanner to create the images.
Dental practitioners can alter these images using digital software to make them clearer. These images can also be used to create 3D digital models of the target anatomy. This process can help with diagnosis by providing more accurate information.
Equipment for Dental Digital Imaging Intra-Oral Dental Assistants Should Know
As an intra-oral dental assistant, your responsibilities will include the maintenance and supply of dental equipment. An x-ray machine is needed to produce dental digital images. This should have an exposure time of 1/100 of a second and be compatible with digital software.
Dental practices will also need the correct computer software to view, store, transfer, and edit images.
Differences Between Digital Imaging and Traditional Radiography
Digital imaging differs to traditional x-rays in several ways. Firstly, it reduces the amount of radiation that the client is exposed to, increasing patient safety. In digital imaging, radiation levels can be reduced by as much as 90%. This is because a digital image can be produced in 0.05 seconds, whereas a radiographic image takes 0.2 seconds, reducing the time needed to acquire the image and the time that the client is exposed to radiation.
Secondly, the scan can be viewed instantly on a digital device. Traditional radiography requires a staff member to process the film using special chemicals which can take a short time and be damaging for the environment.
As well as this, dental practitioners can use digital software to make images clearer by altering contrast, blur, and noise. The image can therefore be altered depending on what the dentist is looking for.
Lastly, digital files can easily be saved and shared with other practitioners and insurance companies.
Safety Procedures in Radiography
Students in dental assistant training will learn about safety protocols. Even though producing digital images produces significantly lower levels of radiation, safety procedures are still important and should be rigorously followed.
Dental assistants should ensure that the practice is fully equipped with lead aprons and thyroid collars to protect clients from dangerous radiation exposure. Dental practitioners should make sure that they are always standing at least 1.8 metres away from the x-ray head.
Extra precautions are required for children, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding.
Are you interested in undertaking intra-oral dental assistant training?
Contact the Canadian Academy of Dental Health & Community Sciences to learn more!