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Film X-Rays, Digital X-Rays, and Panorex Compared

At Carmel Mountain Dental Care, we use the most advanced x-ray technology to screen our patients for common oral problems. Dr. H. Jonathan Lee and Dr. Marie A. Moeckel use technology like digital x-rays to quickly diagnose patients and Panorex digital x-rays to get a comprehensive, panoramic view of your oral health.

So, what’s the difference between film x-rays, digital x-rays, and Panorex? Let’s discuss the pros, cons, and details behind each of these technologies.

What’s the benefit of film x-rays?

The primary advantages of film x-rays are their inexpensive price and their time-tested qualities. Film x-rays are the oldest form of x-ray technology. They’ve been in use for decades. This means that dentists have the most experience with film and the machines are optimized from years of upgrades.

The process for capturing an image of your mouth is quite similar to photographs. An x-ray is directed at a patient and photographic film is used to capture the image, allowing it to be analyzed by doctors. Film-based x-rays are still valuable tools when administered by an experienced professional.

A concern of many patients is the radiation levels of x-rays. But with film, radiation exposure is quite low! Patients receive a dose of around 0.005 mSv (millisieverts), which is the equivalent of a two-hour plane ride or a single day of natural background radiation. Multiple scans increase radiation exposure, but dentists have used this technology for decades and know how to decrease the risks.

The downside of film x-rays is that they take longer to develop than their digital counterparts. They also can’t be as easily manipulated, so there’s risk that something could be potentially overlooked.

How do digital x-rays differ from film?

Digital x-rays provide more accurate images in a shorter time. The images are displayed on a screen, showing the teeth from all angles. These images can also be enlarged and enhanced, improving accuracy in diagnosis and reducing the need for reshoots.

Digital x-rays use a digital sensor to capture images instead of a film-based substrate. While traditional x-rays require around ten minutes to develop, digital x-rays are available almost instantly. This means shorter wait times for patients and more efficient dental care.

Radiation exposure is also lower for digital x-rays. Depending on the type of film x-ray system in use, switching to digital x-rays can reduce radiation exposure by up to 90%. Exposure drops to around 0.0005 mSv, which is just a little bit more than the radiation you’re exposed to in an airport full-body scanner. This is due to the sensitivity and accuracy of digital systems. Reshoots are not often required.

What makes Panorex unique?

A “Panorex” scan is actually not different from digital or film x-rays. Both can be used for a Panorex image, although digital x-rays are preferred. The distinction is the scope.

The Panorex, or “Panometric Radiograph,” is a large-scale x-ray that’s used to capture a panoramic view of a patient’s entire jaw, mouth, TMJ, and sinuses. Instead of evaluating four separate quadrants, your doctor can see the entire face and mouth all in a single image.

These full-mouth scans can help detect issues like oral cancer, impacted wisdom teeth, and other serious oral care issues, which could otherwise be missed by traditional “bitewing” x-rays and smaller, quadrant-based x-rays.

Because these scans involve longer exposure to x-ray imaging devices, they expose patients to somewhat higher levels of radiation. However, this dose is still very low, and it poses no danger to patients.

Experience the Latest in Digital X-ray Technology at Carmel Mountain Dental Care!

If you still have questions about x-ray imaging, or you have a dental issue in Rancho Penasquitos or the surrounding areas, come to Carmel Mountain Dental Care! We use the latest, most advanced digital x-ray imaging techniques and in-office Panorex technology to perform safe, quick x-ray scans. Our experienced doctors and staff are highly trained at analyzing x-rays, and we can help you with your dental needs and questions.

Contact us today at 858-484-4880, or visit us in person at 9310 Carmel Mountain Road, Ste A, San Diego, California, 92129. With expert care and advanced x-ray technology, we can help you smile!


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