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Buyer's Guide

by Gaby Loria,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: January 21, 2017

Good imaging software can make a big difference when it comes to a dental practice’s profitability. Since most dentists need to see a certain number of patients per day to cover costs, it’s important for their workflow to be as efficient as possible. Unfortunately, clunky or outdated imaging software is often a barrier to achieving peak productivity, because it requires you to spend more time figuring out the system’s kinks than analyzing your patient’s images.

Whether you’re looking to replace an existing dental imaging solution, or you’re seeking software for a new practice, we’re here to help you make a smart purchase decision to keep operations running smoothly. The tips in this article are helpful for all practice sizes and specialties, including:

  • General dentists
  • Pediatric dentists
  • Prosthodontists
  • Orthodontists
  • Periodontologists
  • Endodontists
  • Implantologists
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons

We’ll give you a brief definition of dental imaging before explaining the software deployment options available to you, common technical features to compare systems by and screenshots to illustrate functionalities.

Click on a section below to read more:

What Is Digital Dental Imaging?
Dental Imaging Software Explained
Common Functionality of Dental Imaging Solutions
Dental Imaging Software Deployment Options

What Is Dental Imaging?

An oral examination is not enough for care providers to get a true sense of a patient’s dental health. Dentists must be able to see if there are any worrisome conditions that are obstructed from their view, such as hidden tooth decay, impacted/extra teeth, bone loss from gum disease and/or the growth of any abscesses, cysts or tumors.

That’s where imaging technology comes in. It allows professionals to get more clear and comprehensive pictures of teeth, tissue, nerves and bone inside the mouth. These images can then be studied, stored and compared over time to track improvements or identify worsening conditions.

X-ray image viewed in dental imaging software platform DentiMax

An X-ray image viewed on DentiMax software

Dental imaging is necessary because it gives dentists a better chance of detecting problem areas early for more accurate diagnoses. It also allows them to better educate patients because they can share the images, point to specific areas of concern and show why it’s important to adhere to treatment recommendations.

Digital Dental Imaging Explained

In the past, dentists’ offices had film-based radiography equipment that required a darkroom to process images. With the dawn of digital dental imaging tools (and their accompanying software systems), many providers have realized the old method is a time-consuming and ineffective way to use practice resources.

Practices that employ digital imaging don’t need a darkroom at all. They can use sensors, pans or intraoral cameras instead. There’s no need for chemical processing, as the images from these devices are immediately generated and accessible via computer.

Here are some of the advantages of digital imaging as described by a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA):

  • Immediate image production
  • Interactive monitor display with the ability to enhance image features and make direct measurements
  • Perfect radiographic duplicates for referral purposes
  • Security mechanisms to identify original images and differentiate them from altered images
  • The ability to tag information such as a patient identifier, date of exposure and other relevant details

It appears a great deal of practices are already hoping to capitalize on these benefits. In a Software Advice report of dental software buyer trends, we discovered the greatest amount of dental professionals (18 percent) specifically cite imaging device and/or digital sensor integration as their top-requested software functionality.

Top-Requested Dental Software Functionality

Top-Requested Dental Software Functionality

This is especially significant because 30 percent of our respondents are not using any kind of software at all to operate their practice. This means that imaging technology is the main purchase driver for many first-time dental software buyers.

Common Functionality of Dental Imaging Solutions

Dental imaging software can be sold either in conjunction with digital sensor equipment or as a stand-alone system that integrates with your existing hardware. In either of these cases, here are some of the most common capabilities among dental imaging systems:

Drawing/annotation tools Gives users the ability to highlight, annotate or colorize the image to draw attention to a specific area and write notes about it.
Image adjustments Brightness and contrast can be adjusted to sharpen the image. Magnification tools are also available to zoom in.
Cephalometric tracing Superimpose two or more tracings to assess growth or any other changes.
Treatment simulation Allows providers to show patients what the outcomes of possible treatment plans would look like by superimposing multiple surgical treatment simulations. These visualizations can then be saved to the patient’s chart.
Measuring tools Measures distance between any points on the image in all directions: vertically, horizontally or diagonally.
Image quality meters Indicates whether an image is overexposed, underexposed or just right.

Adjusting the image controls in Umbie DentalCare software

Adjusting the image controls in Umbie DentalCare software

Dental Imaging Software Deployment Options

As we mentioned in the previous section of this buyer’s guide, dental practice owners can purchase imaging software independently or as part of a package deal with the sensor equipment included.

Some sensor brands that include proprietary imaging software don’t integrate with third-party applications. This can lead to problems down the road.

For example, if one of your sensors starts malfunctioning or becomes outdated, you may want to replace it with a different brand of sensor because you find it more affordable or easier to use. But here’s the problem: the new company’s equipment may not be compatible with your existing imaging software, so you’re stuck going back to the original vendor to replace your sensor.

This is why it’s beneficial to buy imaging software that supports hardware from many different manufacturers and allows you to store all the images in one location. You’ll have more freedom to buy the equipment you want without worrying about integration issues.

Another deployment decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to buy best-of-breed imaging software or a dental software suite that has imaging functionalities, as well as other applications, such as practice management and billing.

Dental imaging in a Curve Dental software suite

Dental imaging in a Curve Dental software suite

Even though suites are typically more expensive due to the extra capabilities, many practices find it’s worth the extra expense. An integrated solution allows dentists and their staff to combine all of a patient’s clinical and administrative records in one place, seamlessly switching from their X-rays to their billing information with a few clicks on the same system.


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