Objective: To evaluate the implementation of quality assurance requirements for digital dental radiography in routine clinical practice. The results should be discussed by radiation protection authorities in the context of the relevant legal requirements and current debates on radiation protection.
Materials and methods: Two hundred digital dental radiographs were randomly selected from the digital database of the Department of Dentistry’s Dental and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic, Ulm University, and evaluated for various aspects of image quality and compliance with radiographic documentation requirements. The dental films were prepared by different radiology assistants (RAs) using one of two digital intraoral radiographic systems: Sirona Heliodent DS, 60 kV, focal spot size: 0.7 mm (group A) or KaVo Gendex 765 DC, 65 kV, focal spot size: 0.4 mm (group B).
Results: Radiographic justification was documented in 70.5% of cases, and the radiographic findings in 76.5%. Both variables were documented in the patient records as well as in the software in 14% of cases. Clinical documentation of the required information (name of the responsible dentist and radiology assistant, date, patient name, department, tube voltage, tube current, exposure time, type of radiograph, film size, department and serial number of the dental radiograph) was 100% complete in all cases. Moreover, the department certified according to DIN ISO 9001:2008 specifications demonstrated complete clinical documentation of radiographic justifications and radiographic findings. The entire dentition was visible on 83% of the digital films. The visible area corresponded to the target region on 85.7% of the digital dental radiographs. Seven to 8.5% of the images were classified as hypometric or hypermetric.
Conclusions: This study indicates that improvements in radiology training and continuing education for dentists and dental staff performing x-ray examinations are needed to ensure consistent high quality of digital dental radiography. Implementation of internal radiological quality assurance programs, as required by public law in Germany since 2010 (SGB V), would appear prudent.
Keywords: Quality management, quality assurance, digital radiography, dental radiograph, radiation protection, justification, dose, dose reduction