Eielson dental goes digital

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Gloria Wilson
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
With the invention of the Internet, information can be accessed at the click of a button. Songs, pictures and computer files can be placed on flash drives that fit in the palm of a hand. Technological advancements are ongoing and the world has proven time and time again, if it can be imagined, it can be made.

The 354th Dental Clinic here is transitioning to one such advancement.

The clinic is currently using digital dental X-rays approximately 98 percent of the time instead of film X-rays and will be 100 percent digital in the near future.

The plan is for all Air Force dental clinics to transition in phases to using the digital technology. Pacific Air Forces is in phase one, said Tech. Sgt. Ronald Jones, 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental technician.

Patients still have to "open wide" and "bite down," but instead of biting down on dental X-ray film, they close their mouths around digital sensors.

"There are many benefits that come with the change to digital," Sergeant Jones said. "You can manipulate digital images on a computer, make them lighter or darker and even zoom in on an area.

Long-term cost will be less, man hours will be saved; it is faster, easier and more readily accessible," he said.

Another benefit is the elimination of hazardous materials waste.

"There is lead foil in film, a hazardous material that must be disposed of properly and chemicals are used for developing film," Sergeant Jones said.

"Not only is the process shorter with digital because this [hazardous material] has been eliminated, but technicians will no longer have to be exposed to the chemicals used with film," he said.

Technicians and patients will also benefit from less exposure to radiation.

Decreased patient wait time, e-mail capability, and less storage space for X-rays are even more benefits people can look forward to.

"We can now view digital images in mere seconds versus the five or more minutes it usually takes for film," Sergeant Jones said.

"Also, the click of a button can send the X-rays downtown or to Iraq, anywhere where there is a computer with Internet access. Transport is easier too as you can save the images on anything used to store computer files," he said.

Capt. Ted Winright, 354th Medical Support Squadron medical information systems flight commander, said the new digital capabilities and benefits are great and that he looks forward to future advancements such as this one.

"In today's age, people want things fast. People want accessibility and ease of use. This conversion to digital X-rays is just one of the many ways to give it to them," he said.

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