Friday, June 7, 2013

Dental Imaging - What is happening there?

The first time I was started thinking about dental imaging from a different point of view was when I heard in a talk the speaker saying: "These are statistics about medical imaging, without dental imaging.". I wondered "Why are dental imaging statistics not included?"

My first thought was "well maybe they are seldom"... then again "why would the speaker referred to them specifically?". Dental imaging is definitely increasing! but it seems these procedures are not accounted for when talking about medical imaging. The main dental imaging procedure is X-ray imaging, because X-rays are great for imaging bones and teeth. The increase comes from the fact that digital imaging is now available, which facilitates handling of images. Also, the widespread of these imaging devices make them more prone to use. When I was young, I made some dental images before I wore braces. These images had to be done in a specific clinical imaging facility and were not performed at the dentist clinic. Now, most dental clinics have these devices. Some even say that you should do an annual check up using this technology, so don't be too surprised if the dentist ask you for this next time.

Should you do it? When is it recommended?
The advantage of doing such type of exam without any complaints, it is probably that you will find a cavity before it becomes painful...or to study the evolution of a problem. The disadvantage are the cost and of course, the dose. Although the small doses present in these exams, they are still there. I refer again to this webtool, where you can calculate on your own the risks: Xrayrisk  Traditionally, dental imaging present intra-oral 2D images, but extra-oral are also possible, including 3D images (tomography) which are obtained with a CT scan. Nevertheless, complex exams such as pan-tomography or tomography should only be done in case there is a problem, not for check up...

The main problem with dental imaging is the lack of regulation (either for prescription or safety) and the training of the human resources for these exams. In imaging clinics, you have human resources with radiography studies and possibly even a physicist. In dental clinical, which human resources do they have? 

For more information about the technology and challenges, this article is a good review:
Vandenberghe B, Jacobs R, & Bosmans H (2010). Modern dental imaging: a review of the current technology and clinical applications in dental practice. European radiology, 20 (11), 2637-55 PMID: 20544352


  1. Did you finally found out why they are not in the statistics? Because they are so frequent?

  2. Great share I appreciate your post. thanks for sharing this informative post with us.Dental Practice edgewater

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  5. Digital imaging is all the rage in the dental community. With so many benefits, dental practices can't afford not to purchase the technology. Unlike the traditional dental film X-rays of days past, digital radiography is ideal for making accurate diagnoses at a much faster pace.

    image dental clinic

    1. I agree that digital medical imaging is essential for accurate and faster diagnosis, therefore most dental clinics should have this equipment. However, devices which use radiation shouldn't be used, unless necessary. Usually there should be a patient symptom to prescribe such exams.

  6. Great post! Been looking around for info on this. Thanks for the info!