Film vs. Digital

6 Reasons Film is Still Your Best Choice for X-Ray Imaging over Direct Digital Sensors

#1: Patient Comfort

Hard digital sensors are many times thicker than film and often cause pain and bleeding as the rigid sensor is pushed deep into the corners of your mouth. Even worse, because it’s so large and inflexible, the sensor might not even be able to image a critical area because it just won’t fit. The digital sensor pictured here is over 12 times thicker than a standard packet of film.

Film is thin and flexible and able to be easily positioned anywhere in the mouth ensuring patient comfort.

FIlm vs. Digital thickness: Digital is 12 times thicker

#2: Cost

Compared to film, digital systems and sensors are enormously expensive as well as ridiculously expensive to replace. These costs are either passed on to the patient or taken from office profitability. Film is inexpensive!

#3: Safety

Imagine a reusable digital sensor with germs or bacteria on it from the previous patient. It can’t be heat sterilized like other dental instruments, so a thin bag must be used. The sensor must be carefully inserted into that long, thin bag without tearing. Hopefully no one gets fingers with germs and bacteria on the outside of the bag! Now lets put that bagged sensor into your mouth—not safe!

As the bagged sensor is moved around the mouth (as in an FMX), the bag may tear. If the patient bites down, has braces, or a sharp tooth, the bag may puncture instantly exposing them to whatever was on the sensor—not safe! Bagged Digital X-Ray Sensors put patients at risk.

Want proof? A U.S. Army, 5 doctor study of 400 patients with only a single exposure each—Assessing the Effectiveness of Direct Digital published in the Journal of American Dental Association—reported that the barrier bag failed 51% of the time.

Film is sterile and safe every time! No bag necessary!

digital sensor with bacteria

#4: Image Resolution

In dentistry, we’re looking for image details smaller than what the human eye can see. These small details can make a big difference in detecting and correcting a problem early before it gets to be a painful and expensive problem later. Digital radiography is a bit like cooking a steak in a microwave… It gets the job done, but it’s just not the best quality!

Using the same line pair per mm test pattern, film shows 2–4 times the image detail compared to digital sensors. Higher test pattern numbers mean better image detail.

Manufacturers of direct digital systems often claim very high “theoretical” LP/mm capability. But actual testing proves that systems only get 5–13 LP/mm. Properly processed D or F speed film shows over 20 lines/mm.

Film vs. digital resolution comparison

#5: Equivalent Radiation

Digital sensor manufactures have told dental offices, “Digital X-rays require less radiation compared to film”. Only partially true… What they fail to mention is their comparison is made to “D” speed film. They should be comparing to “F” speed film which requires 60% less radiation than “D.” Compared to “F” speed film, the digital radiation exposure is practically the same! However, it’s important to keep in mind that “D” speed, which provides the highest image resolution and detail, has been proven safe for over 50 years!

A full set of X-Rays using D speed film is equal to just a few hours in the sun.

#6: Digitize Processed Film

Don’t misunderstand us—we agree there are many reasons why a digital X-Ray makes sense: patient presentation, email a referral, insurance submission, get paid faster, and archive. However, there are many ways to get a digital X-Ray image. Most think solely of wired / wireless sensors, and phosphorus. These are expensive and not very patient friendly!

The best way is to digitize processed film. And the best digitizer on the market is QuickShot. With film as the “sensor” and QuickShot digitizing your film, you get the best of both worlds. We call it Film-based-Digital.


To sum it up…

Bagged direct digital sensors are simply not patient friendly. Film is thin and flexible! It’s never been in someone else’s mouth—no bag needed! Film has been proven radiation-exposure safe! It’s inexpensive and provides 2–4 times the resolution!

Film is Still the Clear Choice!