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Dentistry/Digital Dental X-Ray Safety


What are the chances of a dental x-ray machine malfunctioning and overexposing a patient to radiation? I went to a new dentist today, and she told me that her digital x-ray machine exposed me to 90% less radiation than a machine that used film. This was good news to me so when I got home, I looked the digital machines up for more information.

Some websites mentioned the possibility of malfunctions in new digital machines that may not be easily detected, resulting in higher than intended doses of radiation.

Is there any truth to this, or are these machines generally safe? Is there some sort of mechanism in place that limits the maximum amount of radiation emitted from a digital dental x-ray machine, or is it 100% up to the imaging tech to monitor and adjust these levels?

Thank you so much for your time!

Dear Emily,

It is actually the digital sensor that requires much less xray exposure that does the fastest xray film.

It is rare for xray machines to malfunction and continuously provide more radiation than is called for.  For about the past 40 years, xray machines are equipped with safety devices which will shut down the machine until it can be re-calibrated.

Prior to that, no such devices existed, and there is the slight possibility that you could receive more radiation than is required for digital xrays.  This should be quickly corrected by the dentist, as the xrays would appear too dark to read.  In addition, if you are talking about xray units that were made in the 1950's and earlier, these may not have settings that are low enough.  These cannot be used with digital sensors, as the screen would appear black to the dentist.


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Howard Finnk, D.D.S., P.A., CEO


I am a Family, Implant and Cosmetic dentist. I will answer questions on any aspect of dentistry and matters relating to the smile, gums, jaws and lower face. Member American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association, Broward County Dental Association, and Atlantic Coast District Dental Association. I have served as District Council Member of Alpha Omega, as well as serving for one term as its President. I am also a member of The Vedder Honors Society, Broward Dental Research Clinic, and Mount Sinai Hospital Guild. I have served as a Volunteer for Project Dental Health and The Tri-County Dental Health Council.


Having attained over 30 years of clinical experience in private practice in Michigan, in 2001 I was re-certified by taking and passing the Florida State Dental Board Examination. After moving to Florida, I spent nearly 10 years re-honing my skills while working as an Associate Dentist for several large dental groups. In September, 2004, I was appointed Adjunct Clinical Professor at Nova University's College of Dental Medicine. I am certified in placement of Mini Dental Implants, and I am Director of The Florida Implant Center ( On March 1, 2010, at the age of 62, I began all over again by buying a dental practice near my home in the Fort Lauderdale area. As sole owner and Chief Dental Officer of the new Nob Hill Dental Center (, I can now carefully provide dental care to patients who care, all within a caring, joyful environment. Over my career lifetime, I have provided thousands of diagnoses, fillings, crowns, bridges, root canals, periodontal treatments, TMJ therapies, partials, dentures and extractions, and dozens of implants for my patients. The only aspect of dentistry with which I have very little experience is orthodontics.

American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association, Broward County Dental Association, Atlantic Coast District Dental Society, Vedder Honors Society, Broward Dental Research Clinic, Alpha Omega Alumni Association, and American Association of Dental Implantologists. Formerly, American Academy of General Dentistry, Michigan Dental Association, Macomb Dental Society, Detroit District Dental Society, Tri-County Dental Health Council (a charitable dental care organization)

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Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Psychology from Wayne State University Doctor of Dental Surgery from University of Detroit College of Dentistry Adjunct Clinical Professor, Special Needs Department, Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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