Digital Imaging in Dentistry & Its Types

Digital Imaging in Dentistry & Its Types

November 1, 2021

Imaging techniques have come to stay as a crucial part of investigations conducted by healthcare professionals. In dentistry, imaging mainly involves but is not limited to X-rays. Recent advances in technology have made digital dental radiographs possible as an upgrade to the traditional photographic X-ray film. We will discuss all that you should know about digital dental radiography in this article.

What is Digital Imaging in Dentistry?

In digital imaging, digital X-ray sensors are used instead of X-ray films. This produces computer-enhanced images of the mouth and structures within. Our dentist in Kingwood, TX can obtain digital dental images in three different ways: the direct, indirect, and semi-indirect methods.

For the direct method, our dentist in Kingwood will place an electronic sensor in your mouth to record the image. It’d interest you to know that the usual X-ray films can be converted to digital images too. This is done with the use of an X-ray film scanner to scan the film. This method is the indirect technique. The semi-indirect digital technique uses both sensor and scanner to convert dental X-rays into digital images.

What are the Types Of Digital Dental Radiographs?

Digital Dental Radiographs can be divided into two main categories- Intraoral and Extraoral.

  • Intraoral Images: are taken inside the mouth. They are the best if a dentist near you needs a lot of detail on the image. They work well for monitoring developing teeth and bones.
  • Extraoral X-rays: are taken outside the mouth and this means they don’t show as many details. However, they’re great for viewing impacted teeth, assessing jaw growth, and checking the TMJ (TemporoMandibular Joint).

Intraoral Images

There are different kinds of intraoral X-rays and each has its special uses.

Bitewing X-rays are taken when you bite down on the film. This way, the dentist can see adequate details about the upper and lower teeth from the crown to the bone. With a bitewing X-ray, tooth decay and changes in bone density are easily detectable. They are also great for checking the strength of dental fillings along their margins.

Periapical/limited X-rays allow dentists to see the tooth from the crown to the supporting bone. They are great for detecting inconsistencies in the bone structure. They are useful in diagnosing conditions like periodontitis, advanced gum disease, and endodontic lesions (abscess).

Extraoral Images

Extraoral X-rays allow for image capture along with a wider range of motion because they are taken outside the mouth. Examples include panoramic X-rays which use a machine that rotates around the head to show all the teeth in one image. They are great for discovering impacted wisdom teeth and jaw problems. Our dentist in Kingwood can also use them to plan treatment for dental implants.

Multi-slice computed tomography (MCT) is a type of extraoral X-ray that shows a layer of the mouth and blurs out other layers. This effect is useful to view areas that are not easy to see well.

Cone-beam computerized tomography (CBCT) is now used increasingly for facial bone issues like tumors and fractures. They are also good for difficult tooth extractions and evaluating bone density before dental implant surgery.

Other examples of extraoral X-rays include sialography and cephalometric projections among others.

Why Digital Images are Preferred to Traditional X-ray Films?

Digital images have always been easier to manipulate. A dentist near you can adjust settings on their computer screen to enhance a particular detail. This makes diagnosis easier and faster. Early diagnosis is quite important because problems caught early generally have a better prognosis. Moreover, digital images can be sent to other specialists with no quality loss.

To view small areas of decay in the teeth, gum, and bones of the mouth as well as restorations, digital radiographs are undefeated. These problems are virtually undetectable with a visual examination and X-ray films can easily miss them.

Digital images are also safer. Radiation is up to 50-80% less with digital radiography than the traditional films. Moreover, they’re eco-friendlier since they require no chemical processing to dispose of them.

Are There any Disadvantages of Digital Dental Radiographs?

A digital radiograph setup is very expensive. Moreover, it requires technical know-how and constant updates to pre-existing technology.

Sensors used for digital imaging can be uncomfortable when used for intraoral images. There’s also the risk of infection because they can’t be sterilized. Dentists use protective plastic barriers to take images of each patient.


The use of digital X-rays to diagnose, treat and monitor oral diseases is on the increase. More innovation is needed so that they’re more affordable and comfortable for patients. If you are looking for Digital imaging in Kingwood, TX, you can book an appointment with Houston Oral Healthcare Specialists.

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