The Buzz On Direct Current X-ray Units

By Gary Alberts, DDS

Since direct current is more uniform, the exposure times can be greatly reduced. This steady output renders very even, very consistent X-rays, especially with digital sensors. Armed with this knowledge, I decided it was time to invest in a DC intraoral X-ray unit.

I have 5 X-ray units ranging from many years to just a few years in age. My digital sensors are about 5 years old. I replaced one of the older units with a new DC unit about a month ago, starting with the hygiene room since my hygienist takes many of the X-ray for the practice. For this installation, we mounted the main control panel on the wall in the operatory. This panel can also be placed outside the room, a feature that may work well for a few of my other operatories.

If you didn’t know about all the features of this unit, you would think that mounting the controls away from the arm and head may cause extra steps in taking images. However, this particular unit also has exposure controls on the tubehead. So, even if my hygienist forgets to change from an anterior setting to a posterior setting before entering the room, she can make the change chairside. She loves this feature.

More important than having the controls in two places is that they consist of fully programmable presets. That is, I can customize each button’s exposure duration, per tooth and body type, for the setting that works best with my sensors. This was simple process. With the manual and 3 minutes of time, we were able to make the adjustments. And after that, I gained the best images I’ve ever received from my sensors. In the past, my images were satisfactory. But it only took one look to see the difference in sharpness and clarity. I didn’t even need to walk in the other rooms and compare images. There’s no question that this unit makes a difference in my digital image quality.

I appreciate technology and see real value in digital X-ray. Going forward, I may want to invest in newer sensor technology. There’s a USB connection on the X-ray unit itself that’s compatible with the company’s sensors; I see this as a distinct advantage. But the best advance in this unit is that as sensors change, or I change them, I can completely customize the exposure of this DC unit to these sensor changes.

Over the years, each one of our X-ray units offered improvements over the last, and we’ve benefited from these upgrades. We were ready for the latest generation in DC technology. This unit really brought everything into one impressive package—uniform exposure, convenient features, and completely programmable settings that can adjust to my present and future digital needs.

Dr. Gary Alberts maintains a private practice in Northbrook, IL, and has practiced dentistry for 20 years. He graduated from Loyola University School of Dentistry in 1984. Dr. Alberts returned to his alma mater to teach parttime in the operative department. He is a member of the ADA, Illinois and Chicago Dental Societies, and member of the local branch of the Seattle Study Club, as well as other study groups. Dr. Alberts can be reached at