Retaking radiographs: Are you in or are you out?


With a new school year about to start, we will have many new students entering the clinic with little experience making radiographs.  With this comes many retakes.  The one thing I will also be asked by the returning students is why some private offices (they were in rotations over the summer) do not make any retakes?  I realize that each office and dentist is a little different when it comes to retakes, so this is addressed towards those who don’t and why you might want to start requesting a retake every now and then.  Here are the top 2 reasons why retakes are not made in offices.

1. TIME – many offices thrive off of turn-around.  The faster a chair can be re-filled (so to speak) the more money the office can generate.  I’m not going to tell you to completely change your scheduling to retake radiographs, but another 1 – 2 minutes for a retake can be very beneficial and generate more income.  How can this generate more income? For example, by opening the contacts on bitewings and viewing carious lesions that may not have been visible before due to overlap.

2. INEXPERIENCE – this falls on both the person making the radiograph (assistant, hygienist or dentist) and the person evaluating the radiograph (typically the dentist).  This inexperience comes with the knowledge of how to identify and correct a mistake on a radiograph.  Telling someone to merely ‘fix’ the radiograph without proper instruction of how to fix it can be very frustrating to all involved.  You may not have been taught how to identify and correct mistakes to begin with or it is has been a while since learning how to do this.  This is where it wouldn’t hurt to give yourself a little refresher.  Some topics to cover include opening contacts (with minimal to no overlap of adjacent teeth) for bitewings, how to catch the apices on patients with shallow palates and floor of the mouth, and also how to capture second and third molars on patients with a gag reflex.  While this list is not all encompassing, they are radiographs that frequently need retakes.

I realize that you or your office may continue to not do retakes and I have no control over that, but it wouldn’t hurt to take an extra second or two to look at the quality of the radiograph before interpreting it for other findings.  Please let me know of any other reasons you may not do retakes or if you start how it’s helping your office.

Thanks and enjoy!


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