X-Ray Film Scanners and Digitizers, X-Ray Film Scanning Services and Software

How to Digitize Dental X-Ray Film

posted Aug-22-2014

How to Digitize Dental X-Ray Film

Before we get into “how” to digitize dental X-rays, let’s talk about “why” you should go digital.  And, maybe, before we even get into “why” we should talk about “what,” as in “What is digital dentistry?”

dental_xray_smallIn broad terms, digital dentistry refers to any dental technology or device that incorporates digital or computer-controlled components in contrast to that of mechanical or electrical alone. This broad definition can range from the most commonly thought of area of digital dentistry — CAD/CAM (computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing) — to those that may not even be recognized, such as computer-controlled delivery of nitrous oxide.  Really?  How’s that computer know when I’m not feeling any pain?  Oh, well, that’s an article for another day….

Since this article is specifically about how to digitize dental X-ray film we’re not going to worry too much about the nitrous oxide delivery, but the whole CAD/CAM area of dentistry is one we are interested in.  Certainly, CAD/CAM can be used for many aspects of dentistry, from intraoral imaging, to implant dentistry, creation of crowns, bridges and other dental prosthesis.

Bottom line – modern dentistry is digital.  And the reason “why” you should go digital.

Advantages of digital dentistry

Each area of digital dentistry has advantages in comparison to the conventional device or technique. Yet, some of the advantages may be diminished by the increased cost or technique sensitivity.

One area that is relatively low cost and that pays huge dividends is converting from x-ray film to digital x-rays.

Often x-rays need to be included in insurance claims, and this means that the original film is sent off to the insurance company.  It can be an annoyance and cause a delay in treatment when an x-ray hasn’t been re-filed by the time the patient returns for a follow-up appointment.

This results in more wasted time as the staff re-traces their steps to figure out where they x-rays might be located. Sometimes, they’re waiting to be filed, but other times they simply have not been returned from the insurer.  Either way, the search is time-consuming. Some dental offices estimate that they spend five to ten hours per week tracking down x-rays.

Sometimes the disruption in patient service is even worse than the time wasted looking for the X-rays.  These kinds of delays can send a negative message about the way the practice moves patients through the appointment process.

Moving to Digital

When you decide to go digital, you will acquire digital X-ray equipment that will make using film a thing of the past.  But, you will still have film in your patient records.  This is why you will need to digitize the dental x-ray film.  Dental film digitizing requires specialized equipment that meets the regulations imposed by the FDA.   Particular attention must be paid to accurately and reliably scanning the details in medical and dental films because a medical opinion and/or treatment decision will be made about patient care based on these scanned images.  When making a diagnosis from an x-ray, image quality is everything.

What to Look For in a Dental Film Digitizer

In addition to providing outstanding image quality and meeting FDA regulations, you should also:

  • Make sure that the dental scanner you choose can replace film as the legal original.  There is no sense in digitizing your dental film if you still have to store the originals to comply with legalities.
  • Analyze your office digital workflow to make sure that you can integrate your digitized analog film into the workflow.  Whether you’re just converting into a digital practice, half-way there or fully converted, it never hurts to review your workflow to see if improvements can be made.
  • Consider space requirements and ease of use for the dental digitizer that you choose.  The smaller the better, the simpler the better – as long as your diagnostic and legal requirements are met.
  • Ask about digitizing time — it should take mere seconds (roughly 18 seconds) to digitize a panoramic film.
  • Make sure that the dental digitizer you choose supports scanning of all dental film sizes: Panoramic, Cephalometric, and Intraoral.
  • Ask if any clinical studies have been done comparing film to the digitized images produced by the dental digitizer you’re looking at.  Reliable medical digitizers will have been employed in clinical studies at known institutes.
  • Make sure that the dental digitizer you choose can digitize patient films from other referral facilities or for consultation.  You want referral patients brought into your digital workflow, not consigned to paper files and x-ray film in file drawers.


Go Digital with Dental X-Rays