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The greener side of radiology: the benefits of digital radiography.

In today's society, it seems the focus of every organization is to conduct "greener," more environmentally friendly business practices. The United States Air Force Dental Service (AFDS) is no exception, as we constantly look for opportunities to decrease pollution and waste.

One prime example was the decision of the AFDS to implement digital radiography at its 80 dental facilities in 2005. Today, nearly all Air Force dental clinics in the continental United States and abroad have completed the switch to digital radiography.

The advantages of using digital radiography are numerous. Once fully implemented, dental providers have instant access to images, the ability to manipulate and enhance radiographs, and the capability to share images electronically worldwide within minutes. In addition, digital x-rays expose patients to a much lower dose of radiation, often 70-80 percent less radiation than the average exposure when compared to conventional "wet" radiology techniques. This drastically reduces the amount of radiation a patient receives when a full mouth series, endodontic therapy series or dental implant treatment x-rays are prescribed for proper patient management. The patient's radiation exposure is also reduced during the dental radiograph retake process. In addition, retakes are more patient-friendly because the new image can be viewed in a matter of seconds, as opposed to minutes the old-fashioned way.

Another wonderful advantage of digital radiography is the elimination of the dental dark room and the film processor. Time is now no longer wasted maintaining the automatic film processors, which required routine cleaning, replacing and changing of chemicals. We also no longer have to worry about malfunctioning film processors, which could "devour" the most important diagnostic films at extremely inconvenient times.

The greener side of digital radiography comes about with the absolute elimination of: harsh chemicals released into local water systems, silver recovery, lead foil waste and film disposal. In the past, with conventional radiography methods, every Air Force dental clinic required an in-office silver recovery unit to remove the silver halide contents from used fixer solutions. With the elimination of used fixer solutions, the process is much more environmentally friendly and we have eliminated the hazard of silver halide contaminating our wastewater.


The AFDS is on the cutting edge of technology with its adaptation of digital radiography: By using this state of the art system, we adopt more eco-friendly, superior quality and proven diagnostic images when compared to old conventional radiography. With the conversion to digital radiography, the AFDS is among the leaders in innovative dental practices. With every digital x-ray taken, we are creating a cleaner, more efficient, environmentally friendly dental clinic. Each Air Force dental provider using digital radiographs is doing his or her part to save the environment one radiograph at a time.



(1.) Christensen, G.J. "Why switch to digital radiography?" Journal, American Dental Association, Volume 135, No. 10, 1437-39.

TSgt Parnel Scalambrino is the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of Records and Reception, 60th Dental Squadron, Travis AFB, California. He has served in the Air Force as a dental assistant for 12 years.
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Title Annotation:U.S. Air Force
Author:Scalambino, Parnel
Publication:The Dental Assistant
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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