Digital X-rays vs Traditional X-rays

Dental X-rays are one of the most common, and important, diagnostic tools used in dentistry. The first time you visit a dentist, one of the first things the team will do is take an X-ray of your mouth. If you’ve recently had a dental X-ray done at another dentist, they’ll request a copy.

It’s not hard to see why. So much of what happens in our mouths cannot be seen with the naked eye. The roots of our teeth are hidden in bone, and both the roots and bone are hidden by gum. Even the crowns of our teeth hide secrets that are only visible with X-ray imaging.

Today, dentists tend to prefer digital X-rays to traditional film-based X-rays, but what are the benefits of doing this? And are they safer than conventional X-rays, or worse?


Radiation Levels of Digital vs Traditional X-Rays

Patients often ask ‘are dental X-rays safe?

One of the biggest concerns many people have regarding X-rays, be they digital or otherwise, is exposure to radiation.

When getting radiography at a dentist, you’re asked to wear protective gear such as a lead apron. This can make people particularly worried about just how much radiation they’re receiving. The truth is, the amount used in traditional dental radiography is quite low, and perfectly safe to receive once every few months.

Even so, digital X-rays actually produce 80% less radiation than traditional radiography. Patients who might have particularly complex dental problems that requires relatively frequent radiography will be happy knowing that digital X-rays produce such significantly low doses of radiation.


Image Clarity, Digital vs Traditional X-Rays

The point of radiography is to detect and diagnose the health of tissues and structures hidden from the naked eye. To achieve this, you want to be producing an image that has sharp image quality to better detect small structures.

Digital radiography produces much sharper images than traditional X-rays. The digital image sensors allow for greater resolution of detail than traditional radiography film. This lets dentists see problems which in the past might have been too small to notice, allowing earlier diagnosis of problems. With even earlier intervention, dentists can now often prevent complications from ever developing, rather than having to react to problems once they’ve occurred.


Environmental Impact, Digital vs Traditional X-Rays

Traditional X-rays are exposed and developed as film. To do this, a variety of chemicals – many of them quite toxic in high quantities – are needed to properly develop the images. These chemicals often find their way into the environment, especially if proper disposal isn’t adhered to.

Digital X-rays avoid film altogether. This not only circumvents the problem of toxic chemicals, but also produces less overall waste. Film, and the chemicals needed to develop it, comes in various layers of packaging, and all require storage. Each layer of packaging and protective covering is just more waste to make its way into landfill. Digital radiography presents a much more environmentally friendly alternative to these traditional imaging techniques.


Record Keeping, Digital vs Traditional X-Rays

Anyone who has had photos printed knows one of the biggest drawbacks to physical rather than digital media: storage.

As a medical record, it’s important to be able to store, retrieve, and share radiographs quickly and easily. With traditional film-based X-rays, this can be difficult. Physical prints require a lot of space to store – especially if a dentist has many patients – and a well maintained filing system to make retrieval and communication possible. To top it all off, film deteriorates over time.

Digital X-rays avoid these problems. Storage space is only limited to hard drive space, which is easily expandable and transferrable. Retrieving a digital radiograph is very quick, and sharing a digital radiograph to another dentist – say a specialist orthodontist, or an oral surgeon – is as simple as sending an email attachment.



Digital X-rays provide a quicker, easier, more environmentally conscious way to take dental radiographs, while minimizing patient exposure to radiation.

Contact Platinum Dental for more information.