The Pros and Cons of Digital Dental X-Rays Explained

The Pros and Cons of Digital Dental X-Rays Explained

Jul 01, 2021

Dentists contemplating incorporating new technology into their practice find themselves overwhelmed. Currently, it is impossible to look at any dental Journal without looking at a plethora of advertisements and posts about the latest in practice management software, digital imaging, and photography advances like the intraoral camera.

Technology seems to have exploded in the past few years, in particular in the field of digital radiography. However, while the advantages of the new technological advances are clear, dentists contemplating expensive investments in digital technology must also make themselves aware of their potential shortcomings.

This blog looks at the pros and cons of digital dental x-rays to explain their benefits for dentists and patients alike. First, let us consider how dentists and patients can benefit from digital photography in the form of digital dental x-rays.

Benefits of Digital Dental X-Rays

Less Radiation

Dentists are usually not concerned about radiation, but the lower radiation of digital dental x-rays is undoubtedly a USP for patients. Most systems of digital photography require a minor fraction of exposure time than traditional films.


Systems with direct sensors display images on the screen instantly. In contrast, even the slower phosphor plate systems develop periapical photographs in approximately a minute, making them significantly faster than traditional films, which require five minutes. The differences are not significant for patients on routine dental visits, but patients undergoing endodontic treatments benefit considerably from the time-saving features.

Chemical Free

Dentists are happy they no longer have to use messy chemicals or deal with jammed processors or lost films and MSDS sheets. The chemical-free feature of digital radiography appeals to most dental professionals like the dentist in Smithfield, Utah.

Image Manipulation

Software is included in most digital x-ray systems allowing the user to manipulate the image using color, 3D enhancement, and other techniques that help the dentist to diagnose problems often earlier than traditional x-rays would show.

The Cons of Digital X-Rays


The Smithfield dentist has invested in an expensive digital system. The overall cost of the system depends on many factors depending on whether the dentist opts for a phosphor plate or direct sensor and whether the system is networked to make it accessible from all the points in the office. Additionally, dentists must invest in computers and other hardware for patient viewing besides many other minor accessories. Most importantly, the sensors for direct sensor systems are expensive and available without guarantees for replacement. Under the circumstances, patients cannot expect low prices with digital x-rays.


The direct sensor is thicker than the traditional film x-ray making it challenging for the patient to tolerate the larger device. In addition, it requires the dentist and their staff to educate themselves about the proper way to position the sensor for maximum comfort.

Learning Curve

Many dentists investing in digital systems do not recognize the need to get training for themselves and their staff on proper usage. It is crucial for dentists to allow staff to feel comfortable with the new system for full acceptance. The learning curve requires some time the dentists must invest.

Network Requirements

Network requirements are a boon, just as a hassle. After the dental office becomes accustomed to the digital system, the technology is overwhelmed, with everyone wanting access to it. While dentists can choose to start gradually by having the system in one operatory, doing so in a busy office with access to images from multiple locations is usually a significant advantage. The advantage enables the front office staff to access the images of dental claims for insurance companies while allowing the doctor to access the images from the operatory. Network requirements need a proper setup of a computer network without mentioning daily backups of sensitive data.

Digital x-rays are beneficial to every dental practice. However, dentists must learn about the costs, time, and energy necessary to use these systems before making investments adequately. Patients visiting dentists with the latest technology benefit from reduced radiation and faster imaging the digital systems offer. However, they will likely receive a larger bill for digital x-rays, unlike traditional film x-rays.

Dentists undoubtedly benefit from investments they make in digital systems. However, they must consider the pros and cons of the system appropriately and prepare themselves to confront the challenges if they wish to deliver state-of-the-art treatments to patients like the Smithfield dentist.

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