The Pros and Cons of Portable X-Rays

Some dentists consider using portable X-ray units to save on costs. How do these hand-held versions compare?

The X-ray machine is a standard piece of equipment for dental offices and is perhaps the most important diagnostic tool to see what's happening below the surface. Traditional dental offices have periapical X-ray wall mounts in each operatory and a panoramic unit set up in its own space. If you own your practice, you know that the overhead costs of X-ray units can add up, especially if you have multiple operatories to equip.

Some dentists consider using portable X-ray units to save on costs. How do these hand-held versions compare to a traditional wall-mount? Let's look at the pros and cons of portable X-rays to help you decide if this option is a good fit for your practice.

A Little History
Portable X-rays were first introduced for military field and triage applications. This compact unit also solved a need in disaster relief, forensics and other emergency situations.

Regulations for portable X-ray usage can vary from state to state and not all brands have FDA approval for dental offices. Before investing in new X-ray units or updating your current equipment, you should check with your state board to see what guidelines exist for portable X-rays.

The Benefits of Portable X-Rays
Portable X-ray units are an attractive option for dental practices because you or your staff can take them from room to room any time you need to take X-rays. They offer flexibility over wall-mounted equipment, and some patients find portable X-rays more comfortable and less intimidating. If you volunteer off-site, you can take your gear with you to treat patients outside of the office.

Another considerable advantage is affordability. Instead of buying several units and paying to install them, you can save by purchasing a single portable unit. Dental office overhead is significant, so any decisions that cuts costs without impacting services is a smart business move.

The Downsides
Portable X-rays also present some challenges. Here are some of the concerns that dentists have about mobile imaging equipment:

  • Radiation exposure from backscatter or leakage is a higher risk for the operator than it is with stationary X-ray equipment.

  • The weight of hand-held units can strain the operator or make it difficult to position the X-ray correctly.

  • If your portable X-ray unit falls, it could sustain damage and leave you without access to this diagnostic tool until you repair or replace it.

  • Cross-contamination between patients may occur if the unit is not sanitized thoroughly after use.

  • Workflow interruptions can slow procedures as your staff waits to use the equipment.

  • Battery recharging can also impact efficiency, especially if a team member does not monitor the charge.

Weighing Your Options
Before purchasing portable X-ray gear, you may want to see a demonstration or try it yourself. Like with any new equipment, there may be an adjustment period, but once you get used to the convenience of mobile X-rays in your office, you may find it to be vital for your practice.

For more information about portable and stationary X-ray machines, talk to one of our professional consultants. We are happy to help you with any questions you may have.

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