Finding Panoramic Heaven: Our Move From Film To Digital

By Dr. Michael Novak, DDS

A digital pan offers quality images-and saves time and money.

Between the two, there was a lot of inconsistency in the end result. The pans were often either too light or too dark, and needed to be retaken. My team works hard to keep on time, but this machine reeked havoc with our schedule.

In 2005, our Sullivan-Schein representative was helping us with choices for operatory upgrades and knew that we were intending to add computers. He recommended a solution to our pan dilemma, and also suggested we move to intraoral digital X-ray as well as upgrade our X-ray heads. We decided to go forward because of his advice. We don’t regret that decision; everything he told us about the ease of the installation, use, and benefits of the pan, actually for all the equipment, came true.

We have a 7-operatory office. We were running 2 processors all the time. So, that meant a lot of chemicals and maintenance costs, and of course there were the film costs. Basically, we had 2 darkrooms, and we kept a quick-dip setup, too. Looking back, I can see now that this system was a lot of time, money, and mess.

We all anxiously awaited our new equipment, especially the digital pan. The installation of the pan took place in August 2006. It was quick and simple. Since the pan is a nice, compact unit, it fit neatly into one of the darkroom spaces. And that film “stuff”? We threw it all out!

Once it was installed and linked to our computer network, we began using our new digital pan immediately. It turned my team’s attitude around completely. Now, they no longer dread taking a pan. There’s no juggling to fit it into the schedule because it’s so quick.

Our team boasts that it’s easy to use. I’ve tried it myself, they’re right. The laser lines make quick work of properly positioning the patient. The keypad makes sense; it’s not complicated. Since it’s digital, there’s no processing. The team loves not having to handle chemicals or clean the processors. They don’t miss film at all.

We’ve found that we now have a consistency in our images, and excellent quality. Once you have the image, which is immediate, you can enhance it to see detail that you can’t see with film pans. You can easily demonstrate the need for treatment to patients. They appreciate this and other high-tech services we offer.

Yes, there was an initial investment, but it was worth it. The decision to add digital X-ray was a smart one—once we computerized the ops, it was a no-brainer. Better yet, our pan will pay for itself within the next 6 months. When you add the clinical benefits to the time and costs savings, it’s “panoramic heaven.”

Dr. Michael Novak and his partner, Dr. J. David Ronning, maintain a private practice in Hinsdale, Illinois, where they provide general, cosmetic, restorative, and implant services for their patients. Dr. Novak graduated from Northwestern University School of Dentistry in 1986. He is an active participant in continuing education, dental research, and organized dentistry. He can be reached at