Choosing the Right Digital Dental Imaging System for Your Practice

When choosing a dental imaging system, it is important to understand the different technologies available. This not only allows you to pick the right system for the needs of your practice, but also empowers you to make an educated purchasing decision. Not all radiology equipment is made equal and knowing the key questions to ask and features to look for is crucial.

CR vs. DR Dental Imaging Systems

There are two types of digital dental imaging systems currently on the market, DR and CR. Choosing the right one for your practice can sometimes be a challenge. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so the decision really comes down to the needs, preferences, and budget of the practice.

DR systems consist of a digital sensor that connects directly to your computer via USB. When the sensor is exposed, the image is automatically transferred into your imaging software and is visible on your computer screen within about 5-10 seconds.  It is the speed at which the image is made visible that is the most recognized benefit of using DR technology.

The sensors come in sizes 1 and 2 (with a size 4 about to hit the market), however the size 2 is the most commonly used size in veterinary dentistry. Having multiple sizes of DR sensors becomes quite costly as each sensor will cost anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000. Though the size 2 sensor is the most common choice for veterinarians purchasing DR sensors, they are often found to be a little bulky for small dogs and cats, and a slightly small for medium to large dogs. With multiple sensor sizes being so costly, this disadvantage alone is often what motivates practices to invest in a CR system.

For those who are still perfecting their x-ray positioning skills, the DR technology can be quite beneficial. This is simply due to the fact that the sensor can stay in the patient’s mouth while the image is being displayed so slight adjustments can be easily made from its current position.

Though the DR systems in the veterinary market are often a less expensive investment initially, the life expectancy is often shorter than that of CR systems. This is primarily because these sensors are quite fragile and can be easily damaged if bitten or dropped. Unfortunately they are most often not repairable when damaged, and for some practices, require frequent replacement.

CR systems use phosphorus plates that, once exposed, are removed from the patient’s mouth and run through a CR imaging system. The CR system is attached to the computer (often via a USB cable). Once the plate runs through the machine, the image appears on the computer screen and the plate is ejected from the hardware and ready to be exposed again. The plates take 12-17 seconds (depending on plate size) to run through the machine. This process is slightly longer than a DR system, however since those using a CR system have multiple plates to work with, one can be positioning and taking their next x-ray while the plate is making its way through the machine. It is for this reason that for full mouth x-rays, the difference in time between a CR and DR unit can be quite minuscule.

One of the main advantages of CR systems is that the plates come in a variety of sizes. The iM3 CR7 for example, has plate sizes ranging from 0 – 5, providing much more flexibility for the operator. In the veterinary field, a patient’s shape and size varies greatly from one patient to the next. It makes perfect sense to have access to different sized plates, and in some cases different shaped plates, as seen for example with the iM3 rabbit plates. Phosphorus plates are thin and flexible so positioning them in any patient’s mouth is easy. They also cost a fraction of the price to replace if damaged, which is a key benefit to the CR technology.

We hope this helps you understand the different technologies available in veterinary dental imaging. As we mentioned above, there are advantages and disadvantage to both DR and CR technologies so there is no wrong choice. The key is choosing the system that meets your practice needs and budget. Serona Animal Health carries both types of systems and would be happy to discuss these options with you further. Feel free to contact us with your questions today!